Skip to main content

A new cycle of jökulhlaups at Russell Glacier, Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland

  • Andrew J. Russell (a1), Jonathan L. Carrivick (a2), Thomas Ingeman-Nielsen (a3), Jacob C. Yde (a4) (a5) and Meredith Williams (a6)...

Jökulhlaups in 2007 and 2008 from an ice-dammed lake at the northern margin of Russell Glacier, West Greenland, marked the onset of a renewed jökulhlaup cycle after 20 years of stability. We present a record of successive ice-dammed lake drainage events and associated ice-margin dynamics spanning ∼25 years. Robust calculations of lake volumes and peak discharges are made, based on intensive field surveys and utilizing high-spatial-resolution orthophotographs of the lake basin and ice margin. These data enable identification of controls on the behaviour of the ice-dammed lake and provide the first field-based examination of controls on jökulhlaup magnitude and frequency for this system. We find that Russell Glacier jökulhlaups have a much higher peak discharge than predicted by the Clague–Mathews relationship, which we attribute to an unusually short englacial/subglacial routeway and the presence of a thin ice dam that permits incomplete sealing of jökulhlaup conduits between lake drainage events. Additionally, we demonstrate that the passage of jökulhlaups through an interlinked system of proglacial bedrock basins produces significant attenuation of peak discharge downstream. We highlight that improved understanding of jökulhlaup dynamics requires accurate information about ice-dammed lake volume and ice-proximal jökulhlaup discharge.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      A new cycle of jökulhlaups at Russell Glacier, Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      A new cycle of jökulhlaups at Russell Glacier, Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      A new cycle of jökulhlaups at Russell Glacier, Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland
      Available formats
Hide All
Anderson, S.P. and 6 others. 2003. Integrated hydrologic and hydrochemical observations of Hidden Creek Lake jökulhlaups, Kennicott Glacier, Alaska. J. Geophys. Res., 108(F1), 6003. (10.1029/2002JF000004.)
Carrivick, J.L. 2007a. Hydrodynamics and geomorphic work of jökulhlaups (glacial outburst floods) from Kverkfjöll volcano, Iceland. Hydrol. Process., 21(6), 725740.
Carrivick, J.L. 2007b. Modelling coupled hydraulics and sediment transport of a high-magnitude flood and associated landscape change. Ann. Glaciol., 45, 143154.
Carrivick, J.L. and Rushmer, E.L.. 2009. Proglacial geomorphology and sediment assemblages at Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier, South Westland, New Zealand. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 41(1), 1836.
Carrivick, J.L., Russell, A.J., Tweed, F.S. and Twigg, D.. 2004. Palaeohydrology and sedimentology of jökulhlaups from Kverkfjöll, Iceland. Sediment. Geol., 172(1–2), 1940.
Česnulevičius, A., Šeiriené, V., Kazakauskas, V., Baltrūnas, V., Šinkūnas, P. and Karmaza, B.. 2009. Morphology and sediments of ice-dammed lake after its outburst, West Greenland. Geologija, 51(1), 4252.
Chow, V.T. 1959. Open-channel hydraulics. New York, McGraw-Hill.
Church, M., Wolcott, J. and Maizels, J.. 1990. Palaeovelocity: a parsimonious proposal. Earth Surf. Process. Landf., 15(5), 475480.
Clague, J.J. 1997. The 1994 jökulhlaup at Farrow Creek, British Columbia, Canada. Geomorphology, 19(1–2), 7787.
Clague, J.J. and Mathews, W.H.. 1973. The magnitude of jökulhlaups. J. Glaciol., 12(66), 501504.
Clement, P. 1984. The drainage of a marginal ice-dammed lake at Nordbogletscher, Johan Dahl Land, south Greenland. Arct. Alp. Res., 16(2), 209216.
Costa, J.E. and Schuster, R.L.. 1988. The formation and failure of natural dams. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., 100(7), 10541068.
Dawson, A.G. 1983. Glacier-dammed lake investigations in the Hullet Lake area, south Greenland. Medd. Grønl. Geosci. 11.
Desloges, J.R., Jones, D.P. and Ricker, K.E.. 1989. Estimates of peak discharge from the drainage of ice-dammed Ape Lake, British Columbia, Canada. J. Glaciol., 35(121), 349354.
Evans, S.G. and Clague, J.J.. 1994. Recent climatic change and catastrophic geomorphic processes in mountain environments. Geomorphology, 10(1–4), 107128.
Featherstone, R.E. and Nalluri, C.. 1982. Civil engineering hydraulics. London, Granada.
Gordon, J.E. 1986. Correspondence. Glacial lake drainage near Søndre Strømfjord, West Greenland. J. Glaciol., 32(111), 304.
Guðmundsson, M.T., Björnsson, H. and Pálsson, F.. 1995. Changes in jökulhlaup sizes in Grímsvötn, Vatnajökull, Iceland, 1934–91, deduced from in-situ measurements of subglacial lake volume. J. Glaciol., 41(138), 263272.
Helk, J.V. 1966. Glacier mapping in Greenland. Can. J. Earth Sci., 3(6), 771774.
Henderson, F.M. 1966. Open channel flow. London, etc., Macmillan.
Higgins, A. K. 1970. On some ice-dammed lakes in the Frederikshåb district, south-west Greenland. Dan. Geol. Fören. Medd., 19(4), 378397.
Huss, M., Bauder, A., Werder, M., Funk, M. and Hock, R.. 2007. Glacier-dammed lake outburst events of Gornersee, Switzerland. J. Glaciol., 53(181), 189200.
Jarrett, R.D. 1984. Hydraulics of high gradient streams. J. Hydraul. Eng., 110(11), 15191539.
Knight, P.G., Waller, R.I., Patterson, C.J., Jones, A.P. and Robinson, Z.P.. 2000. Glacier advance, ice-marginal lakes and the routing of meltwater and sediment: Russell Glacier, Greenland. J. Glaciol., 46(154), 423426.
Maizels, J.K. 1983. Palaeovelocity and palaeodischarge determination for coarse gravel deposits. In Gregory, K.J., ed. Background to paleohydrology. Chichester, Wiley, 101139.
Mathews, W.H. and Clague, J.J.. 1993. Record of jökulhlaups from Summit Lake, northwestern British Columbia. Can. J. Earth Sci., 30(3), 499508.
Mayer, C. and Schuler, T.V.. 2005. Breaching of an ice dam at Qorlortossup tasia, south Greenland. Ann. Glaciol., 42, 297302.
Mayer, C., Lambrecht, A., Hagg, W., Helm, A. and Scharrer, K.. 2008. Post-drainage ice dam response at Lake Merzhacher, Inylchek Glacier, Kyrgyzstan. Geogr. Ann., Ser. A, 90(1), 8796.
Mernild, S.H. and Hasholt, B.. 2009. Observed runoff, jökulhlaups and suspended sediment load from the Greenland ice sheet at Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland, 2007 and 2008. J. Glaciol., 55(193), 855858.
Mernild, S.H., Hasholt, B., Tidwell, A.C. and Kane, D.L.. 2008. Jökulhlaup observed at Greenland ice sheet. Eos, 89(35), 321.
Ng, F. and Björnsson, H.. 2003. On the Clague–Mathews relation for jökulhlaups. J. Glaciol., 49(165), 161172.
Ng, F. and Liu, S.. 2009. Temporal dynamics of a jökulhlaup system. J. Glaciol., 55(192), 651665.
Ng, F., Liu, S., Mavlyudov, B. and Wang, Y.. 2007. Climatic control on the peak discharge of glacier outburst floods. Geophys. Res. Lett., 34(21), L21503. (10.1029/2007GL031426.)
Richards, K.S. 1982. Rivers: form and process in alluvial channels. New York, Methuen & Co.
Roberts, M.J. 2005. Jökulhlaups: a reassessment of floodwater flow through glaciers. Rev. Geophys., 43(1), RG1002. (10.1029/2003RG000147.)
Roberts, M.J., Pálsson, F., Guðmundsson, M.T., Björnsson, H. and Tweed, F.S.. 2005. Ice–water interactions during floods from Grænalón glacier-dammed lake, Iceland. Ann. Glaciol., 40, 133138.
Russell, A.J. 1989. A comparison of two recent jökulhlaups from an ice-dammed lake, Søndre Strømfjord, West Greenland. J. Glaciol., 35(120), 157162.
Russell, A.J. 1990. Correspondence. Extraordinary melt-water runoff near Søndre Strømfjord, West Greenland. J. Glaciol., 36(124), 353.
Russell, A.J. 1993a. The geomorphological and sedimentary effects of jökulhlaups. (PhD thesis, University of Aberdeen.)
Russell, A.J. 1993b. Obstacle marks produced by flow around stranded ice blocks during a glacier outburst flood (jökulhlaup) in West Greenland. Sedimentology, 40(6), 10911111.
Russell, A.J. 1993c. Correspondence. Supraglacial lake drainage near Søndre Strømfjord, Greenland. J. Glaciol., 39(132), 431433.
Russell, A.J. 1994. Subglacial jökulhlaup deposition, Jotunheimen, Norway. Sediment. Geol., 91(1–4), 131144.
Russell, A.J. 2007. Controls on the sedimentology of an ice-contact jökulhlaup-dominated delta, Kangerlussuaq, west Greenland. Sediment. Geol., 193(1–4), 131148.
Russell, A.J. 2009. Jökulhlaup (ice-dammed lake outburst flood) impact within a valley-confined sandur subject to backwater conditions, Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland. Sediment. Geol., 215(1–4), 3349.
Russell, A.J. and de Jong, C.. 1988. Lake drainage mechanisms for the ice-dammed Oberer Russellsee, Søndre Strømfjord, West Greenland. Z. Gletscherkd. Glazialgeol., 24(2), 143147.
Russell, A.J. and Marren, P.M.. 1999. Proglacial fluvial sedimentary sequences in Greenland and Iceland: a case study from active proglacial environments subject to jökulhlaups. In Jones, A.P., Tucker, M.E. and Hart, J.K., eds. The description and analysis of Quaternary stratigraphic field sections. London, Quaternary Research Association, 171208.
Russell, A.J., Aitken, J. F. and de Jong, C.. 1990. Observations on the drainage of an ice-dammed lake in West Greenland. J. Glaciol., 36(122), 7274.
Russell, A.J., Tatenhove, F.G.M. and van de Wal, R.S.W.. 1995. Effects of ice-front collapse and flood generation on a proglacial river channel near Kangerlussuaq (Søndre Strømfjord), West Greenland. Hydrol. Process., 9(2), 213227.
Russell, A.J., Knudsen, Ó., Maizels, J.K. and Marren, P.M.. 1999. Channel cross-sectional area changes and peak discharge calculations on the Gígjukvísl during the November 1996 jökulhlaup, Skeiðarárjökull, Iceland. Jökull, 47, 4558.
Russell, A.J., Gregory, A.R., Large, A.R.G., Fleisher, P.J. and Harris, T.D.. 2007. Tunnel channel formation during the November 1996 jökulhlaup, Skeiðarárjökull, Iceland. Ann. Glaciol., 45, 95103.
Ryder, J.M. and Church, M.. 1986. The Lillooet terraces of Fraser River: a palaeoenvironmental enquiry. Can. J. Earth Sci., 23(6), 869884.
Scholz, H., Schreiner, B. and Funk, H.. 1988. Der Einfluss von Gletscherläufen auf die Schmelzwasserablagerungen des Russell-Gletschers bei Søndre Strømfjord (Westgrönland). Z. Gletscherkd. Glazialgeol., 24(1), 5574.
Sugden, D.E., Clapperton, C.M. and Knight, P.G.. 1985. A jökulhlaup near Søndre Strømfjord, West Greenland, and some effects on the ice-sheet margin. J. Glaciol., 31(109), 366368.
Tedesco, M. 2007. A new record in 2007 for melting in Greenland. Eos, 88(39), 383.
Thompson, S.M. and Campbell, P.L.. 1979. Hydraulics of a large channel paved with boulders. J. Hydraul. Res., 17(4), 341354.
Thórarinsson, S. 1939. The ice dammed lakes of Iceland with particular reference to their values as indicators of glacier oscillations. Geogr. Ann., 21(3–4), 216242.
Tweed, F.S. and Russell, A.J.. 1999. Controls on the formation and sudden drainage of glacier-impounded lakes: implications for jökulhlaup characteristics. Progr. Phys. Geogr., 23(1), 79110.
Van de Wal, R.S.W. and Russell, A.J.. 1994. A comparison of energy balance calculations, measured ablation and meltwater runoff near Søndre Strømfjord, West Greenland. Global Planet. Change, 9(1–2), 2938.
Walder, J.S. and Costa, J.E.. 1996. Outburst floods from glacier-dammed lakes: the effect of mode of lake drainage on food magnitude. Earth Surf. Process. Landf., 21(8), 701723.
Walder, J.S. and 6 others. 2006. Local response of a glacier to annual filling and drainage of an ice-marginal lake. J. Glaciol., 52(178), 440450.
Wiles, G.C., Barclay, D.J., Calkin, P.E. and Lowell, T.V.. 2008. Century to millennial-scale temperature variations for the last two thousand years indicated from glacial geologic records of Southern Alaska. Global Planet. Change, 60(1–2), 115125.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed