EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

New results on the dynamics of the NW part of the Svalbard Ice Sheet during the deglaciation of the Woodfjorden Trough

Tom Arne Rydningen1, Amando Lasabuda1,2, Jan Sverre Laberg1,2, Christine Tømmervik Kollsgård1, Stine Bjordal Olsen1,2, Matthias Forwick1, Monica Winsborrow3, and Ólafur Ingólfsson4
Tom Arne Rydningen et al.
  • 1UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Department of Geosciences, Tromsø, Norway (
  • 2Research Centre for Arctic Petroleum Exploration (ARCEx), Department of Geosciences, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway
  • 3Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE), Department of Geosciences, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway
  • 4Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland, Iceland

Present-day warming is most pronounced at high latitudes, raising concern for the stability of modern ice caps such as the ones overlying the Svalbard archipelago. Palaeo-records give us opportunity to understand past behavior of these systems, including the ice retreat from the continental shelf at the end of the last glaciation. In order to evaluate and reconstruct this in a robust way, it is essential that we acquire high-quality data sets covering key areas in the Arctic.

New multi-beam bathymetric data was acquired in July 2019 from the Woodfjorden Trough; an up to 60 km long and 40 km wide transverse trough on the northwestern part of the Svalbard continental shelf. Previous investigations have shown that this trough was occupied by a major ice stream draining the Svalbard Ice Sheet during the last glacial, but the deglacial dynamics of this sector of the Svalbard Ice Sheet are presently not well constrained.

The new data reveal a complex seabed morphology including larger (2 km wide, 50 m high) and smaller (100 m wide, 3 m high) ridges, as well as sediment wedges (1 to 2 km wide, 30 m high), partly showing crosscutting relationships. These ridges and wedges are discontinuous in the outer part of the trough, where they are partly superposed by glacial lineations and small- to larger sized iceberg ploughmarks (up to 1500 m wide and 30 m deep). In the middle part of the trough, more continuous ridges dominate.

The ridges and wedges are interpreted to be glacial landforms formed by grounded ice within the Woodfjorden Trough. Their crosscutting relationships testify to a complex deglaciation, including several advances and still stands of the ice front during overall ice retreat, and their size could indicate that the glacier front was stable for some time. Smaller ridges may be retreat moraines formed during shorter (annual?) still stands of the glacier front. Based on their discontinuous characteristics, the ridges and wedges in the outer part of the trough may pre-date the final Late Weichselian deglaciation, i.e. they may have been overridden by a grounded glacier. The more continuous character of the ridges in the middle part of the trough indicate that these likely date from the Late Weichselian deglaciation.

The glacial landforms identified here are rather atypical for glacial troughs, commonly dominated by mega-scale glacial lineations superposed by one or a few grounding zone wedges and/or smaller retreat moraines. The abundant morainal systems and glacial lineations of the Woodfjorden Trough, instead, testify to highly dynamic grounded ice occupying the trough, and a retreat which was characterized by several periods of ice margin stability, interrupted by readvances. This fits with recent studies from onshore areas, showing that the deglaciation of northern Svalbard was at least partly characterized by glacial readvances during the overall ice retreat.

How to cite: Rydningen, T. A., Lasabuda, A., Laberg, J. S., Kollsgård, C. T., Olsen, S. B., Forwick, M., Winsborrow, M., and Ingólfsson, Ó.: New results on the dynamics of the NW part of the Svalbard Ice Sheet during the deglaciation of the Woodfjorden Trough, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-10921,, 2020.


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