A continuous record of Holocene eolian activity in West Greenland

Nico W. Willemse*, Eduard A. Koster, Babette Hoogakker, Frank G M Van Tatenhove

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Eolian landforms are widespread alongside proglacial valley-sandurs in West Greenland and comprise low-relief sand sheets, climbing dunes, and upland loess. Sedimentary facies mainly reflect distance to outwash-source zones and the influence of vegetation cover. The sediments show stratification types typical for poorly to moderately vegetated sand-sheets, alternately laminated silt/peat sequences, and unstratified loess. Twenty-five accelerator mass spectrometry 14C dates provide the basis for the chronostratigraphy of the inland eolian deposits. 14C dates from interstratified sand-sheets suggest that the bulk of eolian sands were deposited prior to 3400 cal yr B.P. and after 550 cal yr B.P. This two-phase formation for the inland dunes most likely reflects local changes in proglacial floodplain development and meltwater rerouting associated with a significant recession of the Greenland ice sheet during the mid Holocene climate optimum. Subsequent floodplain regeneration and renewed sand-sheet formation after 550 cal yr B.P. followed when the ice margin readvanced to its present position. In contrast, atmospheric deposition of regionally derived silt in upland peat mires has been continuous since at least 4750 cal yr B.P. Slit influx data demonstrate a strongly episodic history of the intensity of eolian activity over the past five millennia, which tentatively reflects alternating periods of (winter) aridity associated with the variable incursion of maritime air masses over the interior ice-free areas of West Greenland.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-334
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2003


  • Arctic environmental change
  • Eolian sedimentology
  • Eolian stratigraphy
  • Greenland
  • Holocene
  • Sand sheets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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