The Origin and Evolution of Holocene Sandur Deposits in Areas of Jökulhlaup Drainage, Iceland

  • Judith Maizels
Part of the Glaciology and Quaternary Geology book series (GQGE, volume 7)


The impact of jökulhlaup (flood) history on the origin and evolution of the coastal sandar of southern Iceland is explored in this paper through analysis of the morphology, sedimentology and stratigraphy of six different sandur environments. The results indicate that three distinct models of sandur evolution can be identified from the landform and lithofacies assemblages of the deposits. Type I sandur deposits are characterized by repeated, thin, upward-fining cycles of gravels, sands and silts, and are found in areas of seasonal meltwater activity associated with braided river systems. Type II sandur deposits are characterized by thick (>10m), coarsening-upward, clast-supported cobble gravels, overlain by a fining-upward sequence of fine gravels, sands and silts, which are found in areas of prolonged (days and weeks), high magnitude drainage events associated with subglacial geothermal activity or ice-dammed lake drainage. Finally Type in sandur deposits are typified by thick sequences (8m+) of structureless pumice granules, underlain by a crudely bedded basal unit, and capped by several metres of trough cross-bedded and horizontally bedded granules. These deposits are associated with catastrophic drainage events generated by subglacial volcanic eruptions. These floods are characterized by extremely high peak flows (>105 m3 s-1) and sediment concentrations (>35%), and shortlived hydrographs (peak flows reached in hours). Type I sandur plains form an extensive low relief surface marked by abandoned, braided palaeochannel networks, while Type II is normally associated with deep incision of meltwater channels into a pitted sandur surface; Type HI sandur plains are characterised by the most complex and varied proglacial morphology and surface landforms. Types II and HI appear to dominate the stratigraphy of the major Icelandic sandar of Sölheimasandur and Mýrdalssandur, and Skeiðararsandur, respectively, such that the braided sandur Type I occurs only locally or as a relatively thin surface veneer overlying Type II deposits. The paper concludes that the sandar forming the south coast of Iceland largely owe their origin to the dominating impact of infrequent but catastrophic, jökulhlaup events.


Debris Flow Flood Event Sandur Deposit Sandur Surface Sedimentary Petrology 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judith Maizels
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK

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