Late Holocene expansion of Istorvet ice cap, Liverpool Land, east Greenland

Thomas V. Lowell, Brenda L. Hall, Meredith A. Kelly, Ole Bennike, Amanda R. Lusas, William Honsaker, Colby A. Smith, Laura B. Levy, Scott Travis, George H. Denton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


The Greenland Ice Sheet is undergoing dynamic changes that will have global implications if they continue into the future. In this regard, an understanding of how the ice sheet responded to past climate changes affords a baseline for anticipating future behavior. Small, independent ice caps adjacent to the Greenland Ice Sheet (hereinafter called " local ice caps" ) are sensitive indicators of the response of Greenland ice-marginal zones to climate change. Therefore, we reconstructed late Holocene ice-marginal fluctuations of the local Istorvet ice cap in east Greenland, using radiocarbon dates of subfossil plants, 10Be dates of surface boulders, and analyses of sediment cores from both threshold and control lakes. During the last termination, the Istorvet ice cap had retreated close to its maximum Holocene position by ~11,730 cal yr BP. Radiocarbon dates of subfossil plants exposed by recent recession of the ice margin indicate that the Istorvet cap was smaller than at present from AD 200 to AD 1025. Sediments from a threshold lake show no glacial input until the ice cap advanced to within 365 m of its Holocene maximum position by ~AD 1150. Thereafter the ice cap remained at or close to this position until at least AD 1660. The timing of this, the most extensive of the Holocene, expansion is similar to that recorded at some glaciers in the Alps and in southern Alaska. However, in contrast to these other regions, the expansion in east Greenland at AD 1150 appears to have been very close to, if not at, a maximum Holocene value. Comparison of the Istorvet ice-cap fluctuations with Holocene glacier extents in Southern Hemisphere middle-to-high latitude locations on the Antarctic Peninsula and in the Andes and the Southern Alps suggests an out-of-phase relationship. If correct, this pattern supports the hypothesis that a bipolar see-saw of oceanic and/or atmospheric circulation during the Holocene produced asynchronous glacier response at some localities in the two polar hemispheres.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-140
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


  • East Greenland
  • Istorvet ice cap
  • Late Holocene
  • Little Ice Age

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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