The origin of glacial alpine landscape in Tröllaskagi Peninsula (North Iceland)


  • N. Andrés Universidad Complutense de Madrid
  • L. M. Tanarro Universidad Complutense de Madrid
  • J. M. Fernández Universidad Complutense de Madrid
  • D. Palacios Universidad Complutense de Madrid



Iceland, Tröllaskagi Peninsula, deglaciation, Late Pleistocene, Holocene, rock glacier


The Tröllaskagi peninsula is located in north central Iceland, between meridians 19º30’W and 18º10’W , limited by Skagafjödur fiord to the west and the Eyjafjödur fiord to the east, jutting out into the North Atlantic to latitude 66º12’N and linked to the central Icelandic highlands to the south. The peninsula is a Tertiary basalt plateau topped by flat summits with altitudes of 1000-1500 m, intensely dissected by the drainage network. The aim of this present study is to synthesize the recent advances in our understanding of the landscape and its dynamics in the Tröllaskagi peninsula and find the origin of its significant difference from the rest of Iceland. Results of the most recent research suggest the situation of Tröllaskagi as ice-free, delimited by the two great glacial outlets flowing down from the Icelandic Ice Sheet through the Skagafjödur and Eyjafjödur fiords, from at least the Oldest Dryas to the end of the Early Preboreal. Inland in Tröllaskagi, the glaciers formed in the north-facing cirques without losing their alpine characteristics during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene. The advances of these glaciers during the Oldest, Older and Youngest Dryas and the Early Preboreal were only a few hundred metres greater than the most important advance in the second half of the Holocene, during the Little Ice Age. Only a few of these glaciers remained debris-free and are sensitive to the minor climate oscillations. The rest, due to the important geomorphological activity on their walls, developed into debris-covered and rock glaciers and lost this significant dynamism.


Download data is not yet available.


Andrews, J.T., Harðardóttir, J., Helgadóttir, G., Jennings, A.E., Geirsdóttir, Á., Sveinbjörnsdóttir, Á.E., Schoolfield, S., Kristjánsdóttir, G.B., Smith, L.M., Thors, K., Syvitski, J. 2000. The N and W Iceland Shelf: Insights into Last Glacial Maximum ice extent and deglaciation based on acoustic stratigraphy and basal radiocarbon AMS dates. Quaternary Science Reviews 19, 619-631.

Brynjólfsson, S., Ingólfsson, Ó., Schomacker, A. 2012. Surge fingerprinting of cirque glaciers at the Tröllaskagi peninsula, North Iceland. Jökull 62, 1-16.

Brynjólfsson, S., Schomacker, A., Ingólfsson, Ó. 2014. Geomorphology and the little ice age extent of the Drangajökull ice cap, NW Iceland, with focus on its three surge-type outlets. Geomorphology 201, 292-304.

Brynjólfsson, S., Schomacker, A., Ingólfsson, Ó., Keiding, J.K. 2015a. Cosmogenic 36Cl exposure ages reveal a 9.3 ka BP glacier advance and the Late Weichselian-Early Holocene glacial history of the Drangajökull region, northwest Iceland. Quaternary Science Reviews 126, 140-157.

Brynjólfsson S., Schomacker, A., Guðmundsdóttir, E.R., Ingólfsson, Ó. 2015b. A 300-year surge history of the Drangajökull ice cap, northwest Iceland, and its maximum during the ‘Little Ice Age’. The Holocene 25, 1076-1092.

Caseldine, C.J. 1983. Resurvey of the Margins of Gljúfurárjökull and the Chronology of recent Deglaciation. Jökull 33, 111-118.

Caseldine, C. 1985. The extent of some glaciers in Northern Iceland during the Little Ice Age and the nature of recent deglaciation. Geographical Journal 151, 215-227.

Caseldine, C. J. 1987. Neoglacial glacier variations in Northern Iceland: examples from the Eyjafjördur area. Arctic and Alpine Research 19, 296-304.

Caseldine, C.J., Cullingford, R.A. 1981. Recent Mapping of Gljúfurárjökull and Gljúfurárdalur. Jökull 31, 11-22.

Caseldine, C., Hatton, J. 1994. Interpretation of Holocene Climatic Change for the Eyjafjördur Area of Northen Iceland from Pollen-Analytical data: Comments and Preliminary results. In: J. Stöner, F. Wilhelm, F. (eds.), Environmental Changes in Iceland. Münchener Geographische Abhandlungen, Reihe B. Band B12, 41-62.

Caseldine, C., Stötter, J. 1993. ‘Little Ice Age’ glaciation of Tröllaskagi peninsula, northern Iceland: climatic implications for reconstructed equilibrium line altitudes (ELAs). The Holocene 3, 357-366.

Caseldine, C., Geirsdottir, A., Langdon, P. 2003. Efstadalsvatn - a multiproxy study of a Holocene lacustrine sequence from NW Iceland. Journal of Paleolimnology 30, 55-73.

Caseldine, C., Langdon, P.G., Holmes, N. 2006. Early Holocene climate variability and the timing and extent of the Holocene thermal maximum (HTM) in northern Iceland. Quaternary Science Reviews 25, 2314–2331.

Coquin, J., Mercier D., Bourgeois, O., Cossart E., Decaulne A. 2015. Gravitational spreading of mountain ridges coeval with Late Weichselian deglaciation: impact on glacial landscapes in Tröllaskagi, northern Iceland. Quaternary Science Reviews 107, 197-213.

Cossart, E., Mercier, D., Decaulne, A., Feuillet, T., Jónsson, H.P., Sæmundsson, þ. 2014. Impacts of post-glacial rebound on landslide spatial distribution at a regional scale in northern Iceland (Skagafjörður). Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 39, 336-350.

Einarsson, M.Á. 1976. Vedurfar á Islandi. Idunn. Reykjavik, 150 pp.

Einarsson, M.A. 1991. Temperature conditions in Iceland 1901-1990. Jökull 41, 1-20.

Einarsson, Th. 1963. Pollen-analitical studies on vegetation and climate history of Iceland in late and post-glacial times. In: A. Löve, D. Löve (eds.), North Atlantic biota and their history, Pergamon, 355-365.

Einarsson, Th. 1966. Late and Post-glacial rise in Iceland and sub-crustal viscosity. Jökull 16, 157-166.

Einarsson, Th. 1967. Zu der ausdehnung der weichselzeitlichen vereisung Nordislands. Sonderveröffentlichungen des Geologischen Institutes der Universität Köln 13, 167-173.

Einarsson, Th. 1973. Geology of Iceland. In: M.G. Pitcher (ed.) Artic geology. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Memoir 19, 171-175.

Etzelmüller, B., Farbrot, H., Guðmundsson, Á., Humlum, O., Tveito, O.E., Björnsson, H. 2007. The regional distribution of mountain permafrost in Iceland. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 18, 185–199.

Eythorsson, J. 1935. On the variations of glaciers in Iceland, some studies made in 1931. Geografiska Annaler 1-2, 121-137.

Farbrot, H., Etzelmüller, B., Schuler, T.V., Guðmundsson, Á., Eiken, T., Humlum, O., Björnsson, H. 2007. Thermal characteristics and impact of climate change on mountain permafrost in Iceland. Journal of Geophysical Research 112: F03S90.

Fernández, J.M., Andrés, N., Tanarro, L. M., Palacios, D. 2015. Glacial and climatic evolution from the Little Ice Age last Maximum to the present in Tröllaskagi Peninsula (North Iceland): the case of Gljúlfurárjökull. Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 17, EGU2015-13719.

Fernández, J.M., Andrés, N., Tanarro, L. M., Sæmundsson, Þ., Palacios, D. (2016). High sensitivity of debris free glaciers to climatic change in Tröllaskagi Peninsula (North Iceland). The Holocene (Submitted).

Feuillet, T., Coquin, J., Mercier, D., Cossart, E., Decaulne, A., Jónsson, H.P., Sæmundsson, þ., 2014. Focusing on the spatial non-stationarity of landslide predisposing factors in northern Iceland: do paraglacial factors vary over space? Progress Physical Geography 38, 354-377.

Geirsdóttir, A. 2011. Pliocene and Pleistocene Glaciations of Iceland: A Brief Overview of the Glacial History. In: J. Ehlers, P.L. Gibbard, P.D. Hughes (eds.), Quaternary Glaciations – Extent and Chronology. Amsterdam, ISBN 978-0-444-53447-7. pp. 199-210.

Geirsdóttir, Á., Andrews, J.T., Ólafsdóttir, S., Helgadóttir G., Harðardóttir J. 2002. A 36 Ky record of iceberg rafting and sedimentation from north-west Iceland. Polar Research 21, 291-298.

Geirsdóttir, A., Miller, G.H., Axford, Y., Ólafsdóttir, S., 2009. Holocene and latest Pleistocene climate and glacier fluctuations in Iceland. Quaternary Science Reviews 28, 2107-2118.

Geirsdóttir, A., Miller, G.H., Larsen, D.J., Ólafsdóttir, S. 2013. Abrupt Holocene climate transitions in the northern North Atlantic region recorded by synchronized lacustrine records in Iceland. Quaternary Science Reviews 70, 48-62.

Häberle, T. 1991. Holocene glacial history of the Hörgádalur area, Tröllaskagi, northern Iceland. In: J.K. Maizels, C. Caseldin (eds.), Environmental change in Iceland: Past and present. Dordrecht, Kluwer, pp. 193-202.

Häberle, T. 1994. Glacial, Late Glacial and Holocene history of the Hörgádalur area, Tröllaskagi, Northern Iceland. In: J. Stötter, F. Wilhelm (eds.), Environmental change in Iceland, Münchener Geographische Abhandlungen, Vol. B12, pp. 133-145.

Hamilton, S.J., Whalley, W.B. 1995. Preliminary results from the lichenometric study of the Nautárdalur rock glacier, Tröllaskagi, northern Iceland. Geomorphology 12, 123-132.

Hole, I. 2015. Glacial geomorphology and Late Quaternary glacial History of Hornstrandir, NW Iceland. Unpublished thesis. Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Trondheim, 96 pp.

Hubbard, A., Sugden, J. Dugmore, A., Norðdahl H., Pétursson H. G. 2006. A modelling insight into the Icelandic Late Glacial Maximum ice sheet. Quaternary Science Reviews 25, 2283-2296.

Ingólfsson, O. 1991. A review of the late Weichselian and early Holocene glacial and environmental history of Iceland. In: J. Maizels, C. Caseldine (eds.), Environmental Change in Iceland: Past and Present. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 13-29.

Ingólfsson, O., Norðdahl, H. 1994. A review of the environmental history of Iceland, 13000-9000 yr BP. Journal of Quaternary Science 9, 147-150.

Ingólfsson, Ó., Björck, S., Hafliðason, H., Rundgren, M. 1997. Glacial and climatic events in Iceland reflecting regional North Atlantic climatic shifts during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Quaternary Science Reviews 16, 1135-1144.

Jönsson, Ó. 1976. Berghlaup. Raektunarfélag Norðurlands. Akureyri, 623 pp.

Kaldal, I., Víkingssson, S. 1990. Early Holocene Deglaciation in Central Iceland. Jökull, 40, 51-66

Kellerer-Pirklbauer, A., Wangensteen, B., Farbrot, H., Etzelmüller, B. 2007. Relative surface age-dating of rock glacier systems near Hólar in Hjaltadalur, northern Iceland. Journal of Quaternary Science 23, 137-151.

Kirkbride, M.P., Dugmore, A.J. 2001. Timing and significance of mid-Holocene glacier advances in northern and central Iceland. Journal of Quaternary Science 16, 145-153.

Kirkbride, M.P., Dugmore, A.J. 2006. Responses of mountain lee caps in central Iceland to Holocene climate change. Quaternary Science Reviews 25, 1692-1707.

Kugelmann, O. 1991. Dating recent glacier advances in the Svarfaðardalur-Skiðadalur area of northern Iceland by means of a new lichen curve. In: J. Maizels, C. Caseldine (eds.), Environmental change in Iceland: Past and present. Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 203-217.

Larsen, D., Miller, G.H., Geirsdottir, A., Ólafsdóttir, S. 2012. Non-linear Holocene climate evolution in the North Atlantic: a high-resolution, multi-proxy record of glacier activity and environmental change from Hvítárvatn, central Iceland. Quaternary Science Reviews 39, 14-25.

Lilleøren, K.S., Etzelmüller, B., Gärtner-Roer, I., Kääb, A., Westermann, S., Guðmundsson, Á. 2013. The distribution, thermal characteristics and dynamics of permafrost in Tröllaskagi, Northern Iceland, as inferred from the distribution of rock glaciers and ice-cored moraines. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 24, 322-335.

Martin, E., Whalley, W.B., Caseldine, C. 1991. Glacier fluctuations and rock glaciers in Tröllaskagi, Northen Iceland, with Special reference to 1946-1986. In: J. Maizels, C. Caseldine (eds.), Environmental change in Iceland: past and present Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 255-264.

Martin, E., Whalley, W.B., Orr, J, Caseldine, C. 1994. Dating and interpretation of rock glaciers using lichenometry, south Tröllaskagi, North Iceland. Münchener Geographische Abhandlungen B 12, 205-224.

Martin, E., Whalley W.B. 1987. A glacier ice-cored rock glacier, Tröllaskagi, Iceland. Jökull 37, 49-56.

Mercier, D., Cossart, E., Decaulne, A., Feuillet, T., Jónsson, H.P., Sæmundsson, þ. 2013. The Höfðahólar rock avalanche (sturzström): chronological constraint of paraglacial landsliding on an Icelandic hillslope. The Holocene 23, 432-446.

Norðdahl, H. 1991a. Late Weichselian and early Holocene deglaciation history of Iceland. Jökull 40, 27-50.

Norðdahl, H. 1991b. A review of the glaciation maximum concept and the deglaciation of Eyjafjordur, North Iceland. In: J. Maizels, C. Caseldine (eds.), Environmental Changes in Iceland: Past and Present. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 31–47.

Norðdahl, H., Einarsson, Th. 2001. Concurrent changes of relative sea-level and glacier extent at the Weichselian – Holocene boundary in Berufjörður, Eastern Iceland. Quaternary Science Reviews 20, 1607-1622.

Norðdahl, H., Pétursson, H.G. 2005. Relative sea level changes in Iceland. New aspects of the Weichselian deglaciation of Iceland. In: C. Caseldine, A. Russel, J. Harðardottir, Ó. Knudsen (eds.), Iceland - Modern Processes and Past Environments. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 25-78.

Norðdahl, H., Ingólfsson, Ó., Pétursson, H. G., Hallsdóttir M. 2008. Late Weichselian and Holocene environmental history of Iceland. Jökull 58, 343-364.

Palacios, D., Andrés, N., Sæmundsson, Þ., Brynjólfsson, S. 2015. The deglaciation of the Tröllaskagi Peninsula, Northern Iceland, based oncosmogenic datings. Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 17, EGU2015-9648.

Palacios, D., Andrés, N., Sæmundsson, Þ., Brynjólfsson, S. (2016). The deglaciation of the Tröllaskagi Peninsula (North Iceland). Quaternary Science Reviews (Submitted).

Pétursson, H.G., Norðdahl, H., Ingólfsson, O. 2015. Late Weischelian history of relative sea level changes in Iceland during a collapse and subsequent retreat of marine based ice sheet. Cuadernos de Investigación Geográfica 41 (2), 261-277.

Principato, S.M., Geirsdottir, A., Johannsdottir, G.E., Andrews, J.T. 2006. Late Quaternary glacial and deglacial history of eastern Vestfirdir. Journal of Quaternary Science 21, 271-285.

Principato, S.M. 2008. Geomorphic evidence for Holocene glacial advances and sealevel fluctuations on eastern Vestfirdir, northwest Iceland. Boreas 37, 132-145.

Principato, S., Johnson, J.S. 2009. Using a GIS to quantify patterns of glacial erosion on northwest iceland: implications for independent ice sheets. Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research 41, 128-137.

Rundgren, M. 1995. Biostratigraphic evidence of the Allerød-Younger Dryas-Preboreal oscillation in Northern Iceland. Quaternary Research 44, 405-416.

Rundgren, M. 1999. A summary of the environmental history of the Skagi peninsula, northern Iceland, 11,300-7800 BP. Jökull 47, 1-19.

Rundgren, M., Ingólfsson, Ó. 1999. Plant survival in Iceland during periods of glaciations. Journal of Biogeography 26, 387-396.

Sigbjarnasson, G. 1983. The Quaternary alpine glaciation and marine erosion in Iceland. Jökull 33, 87-98.

Sigurvinsson, J.R. 1983. Weichselian glacial lake deposits in the highlands of Northwestern Iceland. Jökull 33, 99-109.

Steindórsson, S. 1963. Ice age refugia in Iceland as indicated by the present distribution of plant species. In A. Löve, D. Löve, (eds.), North Atlantic biota and their history. Pergamon, pp. 87-98.

Stötter, J., 1991. New observations on the postglacial glacial history of Tröllaskagi, northern Iceland. In: J. Maizels, C., Caseldine (Eds.) Environmental change in Iceland: Past and present. Dordrecht: Kluwer, pp. 181-192.

Stötter, J., Wastl, M., Caseldine, C., Häberle, T. 1999. Holocene palaeoclimatic reconstructions in Northern Iceland: approaches and results. Quaternary Science Reviews 18, 457-474.

Tanarro, L.M., Palacios, D., Andrés, N., Fernández, J.M. 2015. Static debris-covered glaciers and rock glaciers in Tröllaskagi Peninsula (northern Iceland): The cases of Hóladalur and Fremri-Grjótárdalur. Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 17, EGU2015-11547.

Tanarro, L.M., Fernández, J.M., Andrés, N., Zamorano, J.J., Palacios, D. (2016). Unchanged surface morphology of debris-covered glaciers and rock glaciers in Tröllaskagi Peninsula (northern Iceland). Geomorphology (Submitted).

Thórarinsson, S. 1937. The main geological and topographic features of Iceland. Geografiska Annaler 19, 161-175.

Veit, H., Marti, H., Winiger, L. 2011. Environmental changes in Northern Iceland since the Younger Dryas inferred from periglacial slope deposits. The Holocene 22(3), 325-335.

Wangensteen B., Guðmundsson Á., Eiken T., Kääb A., Farbrot H., Etzelmüller B. 2006. Surface displacements and surface age estimates for creeping slope landforms in Northern and Eastern Iceland using digital photogrammetry. Geomorphology 80, 59-79.

Wastl, M. Stötter, J. 2005. Holocene glacier history. In: C. Caseldine, A. Russell, J. Hardardóttir, O. Knudsen (eds.), Iceland - Modern Processes and Past Environments. Developments in Quaternary Sciences 4, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 221-240.

Wastl, M., Stötter, J., Caseldine, C. 2001. Reconstruction of Holocene variations of the upper limit of tree or shrub birch growth in northern Iceland based on evidence from Vesturardalur-Skiðadalur, Tröllaskagi. Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research 33, 191-203.

Whalley, W.B., Martin, H.E. 1994. Rock glaciers in Tröllaskagi: their origin and climatic significance. In: J. Stötter, F. Wilhelm (eds), Environmental Change in Iceland. Münchener Geographische Abhandlungen B 12, 289-308.

Whalley,W.B., Hamilton, S.J., Palmer, C.F., Gordon, J.E., Martin, H.E. 1995a. The dynamics of rock glaciers: data from Tröllaskagi, north Iceland. In: O. Slaymaker (ed). Steepland geomorphology. John Wiley & Sons Ltd., Chichester, pp. 129-146.

Whalley, W.B., Palmer, C.F., Hamilton, S.J., Martin, H.E. 1995b. An assessment of rock glacier sliding using seventeen years of velocity data: Nautárdalur Rock Glacier, North Iceland. Arctic and Alpine Research 27(4), 345-351.




How to Cite

Andrés N, Tanarro LM, Fernández JM, Palacios D. The origin of glacial alpine landscape in Tröllaskagi Peninsula (North Iceland). CIG [Internet]. 2016 Sep. 13 [cited 2023 Dec. 2];42(2):341-68. Available from: