Great Holocene floods along Jokulsa a Fjollum, north Iceland

International Association of Sedimentologists Special Publications



  • The Publications Warehouse does not have links to digital versions of this publication at this time
  • Download citation as: RIS


Jokulsa a Fjollum, Iceland's largest glacial river, drains from Vatnajokull icecap northward to the sea along a broad low that includes an active volcanic belt. Geomorphic features along this path reveal an ancient discharge of water large enough to fill the river valley and spill among a plexus of lows in the volcanic landscape. Stratigraphy in most places reveals just one late Holocene great flood down Jokulsa a Fjollum, between 2500 and 2000 yr ago. Step-back water computation suggests its peak flow was 0.7 million m3/s or more. An early scabland-carving great flood had swept down the Asbyrgi area of lowermost Jokulsa just after deglaciation, 9000-8000 yr ago. Stratigraphy near Vesturdalur reveals at least 16 additional floods, perhaps of moderate discharge, between about 8000 and 4000 yr ago. Dispersed field evidence of the late Holocene great flood-anastomosing channels whose basalt surfaces are water fluted and half-potholed, in places plucked down to small-scale scabland replete with dry cataracts, huge boulders, long gravel bars, giant current dunes-is traced the length of Jokulsa valley. From Vatnajokull's north margin at Kverkfjoll, water anastomosed through diverse lows of a high-relief landscape. Thus swift release of meltwater from subglacial Kverkfjoll caldera must have been a source of flood. But even this catastrophic outflow was insufficient to constitute the huge discharges evident farther down-valley. Field evidence reveals a yet greater discharge directly from the large outlet glacier Dyngjujokull. There is no evidence that subglacial Baraoarbunga caldera was involved, but subglacial melting during eruption of a more eastern fissure system could be a source of flood.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Great Holocene floods along Jokulsa a Fjollum, north Iceland
Series title:
International Association of Sedimentologists Special Publications
Year Published:
15 p.
First page:
Last page:
Online Only (Y/N):
Additional Online Files (Y/N):