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Sub‐annual moraine formation at an active temperate Icelandic glacier

Chandler, Benjamin M.P.; Chandler, Samuel J.P.; Evans, David J.A.; Ewertowski, Marek W.; Lovell, Harold; Roberts, David H.; Schaefer, Martin; Tomczyk, Aleksandra M.

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Benjamin M.P. Chandler

Samuel J.P. Chandler

Marek W. Ewertowski

Harold Lovell

Martin Schaefer

Aleksandra M. Tomczyk


This paper presents detailed geomorphological and sedimentological investigations of small recessional moraines at Fjallsjökull, an active temperate outlet of Öræfajökull, southeast Iceland. The moraines are characterised by striking sawtooth or hairpin planforms, which are locally superimposed, giving rise to a complex spatial pattern. We recognise two distinct populations of moraines, namely a group of relatively prominent moraine ridges (mean height ~1.2 m) and a group of comparatively low‐relief moraines (mean height ~0.4 m). These two groups often occur in sets/systems, comprising one pronounced outer ridge and several inset smaller moraines. Using a representative subsample of the moraines, we establish that they form by either (i) submarginal deformation and squeezing of subglacial till or (ii) pushing of extruded tills. Locally, proglacial (glaciofluvial) sediments are also incorporated within the moraines during pushing. For the first time, to our knowledge, we demonstrate categorically that these moraines formed sub‐annually using repeat uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery. We present a conceptual model for sub‐annual moraine formation at Fjallsjökull that proposes the sawtooth moraine sequence comprises (i) sets of small squeeze moraines formed during melt‐driven squeeze events and (ii) larger push moraines formed during winter re‐advances. We suggest the development of this process‐form regime is linked to a combination of elevated temperatures, high surface meltwater fluxes to the bed, and emerging basal topography (a depositional overdeepening). These factors result in highly saturated subglacial sediments and high porewater pressures, which induces submarginal deformation and ice‐marginal squeezing during the melt season. Strong glacier recession during the summer, driven by elevated temperatures, allows several squeeze moraines to be emplaced. This process‐form regime may be characteristic of active temperate glaciers receding into overdeepenings during phases of elevated temperatures, especially where their englacial drainage systems allow efficient transfer of surface meltwater to the glacier bed near the snout margin.


Chandler, B. M., Chandler, S. J., Evans, D. J., Ewertowski, M. W., Lovell, H., Roberts, D. H., …Tomczyk, A. M. (2020). Sub‐annual moraine formation at an active temperate Icelandic glacier. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 45(7), 1622-1643.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 2, 2020
Online Publication Date Mar 3, 2020
Publication Date Jun 15, 2020
Deposit Date Feb 12, 2020
Publicly Available Date Mar 18, 2020
Journal Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
Print ISSN 0197-9337
Electronic ISSN 1096-9837
Publisher British Society for Geomorphology
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 45
Issue 7
Pages 1622-1643


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (27.6 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version © 2020 The Authors. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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