Isolation basins, sea-level changes and the Holocene history of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Antony J. Long, Sarah A. Woodroffe, David H. Roberts, Sue Dawson

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    91 Citations (Scopus)


    Isolation basins are natural topographic depressions that at various times in their history may be connected to or isolated from the sea by changes in relative sea-level (RSL). They provide a valuable source of data for tracking large scale (tens of meters) changes in RSL over millennia, as well as quiet-water depositional environments where abrupt changes caused by tsunami, iceberg roll or storms may be recorded. In this paper we review isolation basins as sources of RSL data with a particular focus on their use in Greenland to constrain the Holocene history of the ice sheet. A new RSL curve from Disko Fjord, West Greenland is presented, which shows that local ice free conditions were established at c. 11 k cal yr BP, after which RSL fell rapidly from a marine limit at c. 80 m to reach close to present sea level by c. 4 k cal yr BP. We compare this record with other isolation basin RSL data from six other sites in Disko Bugt and note a strong northwest/southeast differential rebound across the area during the early and mid-Holocene that reflects variations in ice load history. We compare the Disko Bugt data with other previously published isolation basin RSL records from Sisimiut (central West Greenland), Nanortalik (south Greenland) and Ammassalik (southeast Greenland). RSL fell below present during the early-Holocene at Nanortalik (c. 10 k cal yr BP) and during the mid to late Holocene elsewhere before rising to present. These differences reflect variations in the timing and amount of Greenland ice load change since the last glacial maximum, as well as non-Greenland processes, notably the collapse of the Laurentide forebulge and also changes in ice equivalent sea-level. Isolation basin data have relatively small age and height uncertainties compared with other RSL indicators, enabling them to resolve between different earth and ice sheet models, especially during periods of large ice load and RSL change. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3748-3768
    Number of pages21
    JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
    Issue number27-28
    Early online date26 Nov 2011
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


    • Isolation basin
    • Relative sea-level
    • Greenland Ice Sheet
    • Isostasy
    • Glacio-isostatic adhustment


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