Investigating the erosion rates of Virkisjokull glacier, Southeast Iceland
By Francesca Baldacchino
During my summer holidays, I went to Iceland for 6 weeks to study the erosion rates of Virkisjokull glacier. Iceland is a land full of ice and fire interactions that still shape the landscape today. Virkisjokull glacier is an outlet glacier of Vatnajokull ice cap, Europe’s largest ice cap. Virkisjokull glacier is covered in ash from nearby subglacial volcanic eruptions beneath Vatnajokull. Recent research has shown that Iceland’s glaciers are eroding at epic rates, so I went out to Iceland myself to investigate this.
I collected sediment and discharge data from Virkisjokull proglacial stream for 3 weeks to understand if the glacier has been eroding at epic rates and if ash has become involved in the glacial system. Throughout my 3 weeks at Virkisjokull glacier, a glacial outburst flood occurred, which was really awesome to see! I had to collect data in a range of extreme conditions from snow, storms, lots and lots of rain and sunshine. I also went onto the glacier many times, to get ash samples from within the crevasses and ice surface. I managed to collect all my data successful with the help of my field assistant, Chris Acheson (a physics student from Edinburgh University). At the end of my data collection, Chris also had a collect temperature data from a moulin in the nearby glacier, which was lots of fun to abseil in. The data I collected from my 3 weeks at Virkisjokull glacier was able to show the erosion rates of the glacier and the changes in discharge and suspended sediment during a glacial outburst flood. I would recommend as many people as possible to go on somewhere to collect their data for their dissertation, as it was amazing to see firsthand the glaciers dynamics changing over the time I was there and I learned some valuable fieldwork skills.
Below are some photos from my fieldwork in Iceland at Virkisjokull glacier!