Tephra Constrains Natural and Anthropogenic changes in postglacial Icelandic lakes

Name of applicant

Wesley R. Farnsworth


NordVulk, Nordic Volcanological Center at the University of Iceland


DKK 1,263,000



Type of grant

Strategic Grants


Past changes in climate, sea level, glaciers and volcanism can be extracted from lake sediments. This study uses volcanic ash as a chronological framework to investigate natural and anthropogenic changes within post-glacial lake archives in Iceland


Studying the rate and magnitude of past glacier change, volcanic activity and shifts in climate, allows us to better understand current dynamics, as well as more effectively predict future scenarios. Iceland is an ideal setting to investigate naturally occurring shifts in environment due to: i) its sensitive climatic location within the North Atlantic, ii) the geochronological (and correlative) potential of tephra visible in various sedimentary archives iii) the lack of human influence until the documented settlement c. 871 AD. As Iceland was uninhabited during the majority of the Holocene period (the last 11,700 yrs.), it is a model location to study natural climatic variation as well as to disentangle the complex effects humans and land-use have on the Earth-system post-settlement


The outcome of this project will be achieved through the collaboration and cooperation of an interdisciplinary group of researchers – including archeologists, geneticists, botanists, palaeo-oceanographers and Quaternary scientists. A network of lake sediment records will be recovered and analyzed from Iceland. Target lakes span regional climatic and environmental settings in order to gain a holistic understanding of past changes across Iceland.

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