Late Quaternary ice sheet history of northern Eurasia

John Inge Svendsen*, Helena Alexanderson, Valery I. Astakhov, Igor Demidov, Julian A. Dowdeswell, Svend Funder, Valery Gataullin, Mona Henriksen, Christian Hjort, Michael Houmark-Nielsen, Hans W. Hubberten, Ólafur Ingólfsson, Martin Jakobsson, Kurt H. Kjær, Eiliv Larsen, Hanna Lokrantz, Juha Pekka Lunkka, Astrid Lyså, Jan Mangerud, Alexei MatiouchkovAndrew Murray, Per Möller, Frank Niessen, Olga Nikolskaya, Leonid Polyak, Matti Saarnisto, Christine Siegert, Martin J. Siegert, Robert F. Spielhagen, Ruediger Stein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1091 Citations (Scopus)


The maximum limits of the Eurasian ice sheets during four glaciations have been reconstructed: (1) the Late Saalian (2) the Early Weichselian (100-80ka), (3) the Middle Weichselian (60-50ka) and (4) the Late Weichselian (25-15ka). The reconstructed ice limits are based on satellite data and aerial photographs combined with geological field investigations in Russia and Siberia, and with marine seismic- and sediment core data. The Barents-Kara Ice Sheet got progressively smaller during each glaciation, whereas the dimensions of the Scandinavian Ice Sheet increased. During the last Ice Age the Barents-Kara Ice Sheet attained its maximum size as early as 90-80,000 years ago when the ice front reached far onto the continent. A regrowth of the ice sheets occurred during the early Middle Weichselian, culminating about 60-50,000 years ago. During the Late Weichselian the Barents-Kara Ice Sheet did not reach the mainland east of the Kanin Peninsula, with the exception of the NW fringe of Taimyr. A numerical ice-sheet model, forced by global sea level and solar changes, was run through the full Weichselian glacial cycle. The modeling results are roughly compatible with the geological record of ice growth, but the model underpredicts the glaciations in the Eurasian Arctic during the Early and Middle Weichselian. One reason for this is that the climate in the Eurasian Arctic was not as dry then as during the Late Weichselian glacial maximum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1229-1271
Number of pages43
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number11-13
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper is a contribution to the European Science Foundation program “Quaternary Environment of the Eurasian North” (QUEEN). Many projects and a large number of investigators from 10 countries have contributed to this synthesis. This includes the multinational project “Ice Sheets and Climate in the Eurasian Arctic at the Last Glacial Maximum” (Eurasian Ice Sheets) that was financially supported by the European Union (Contract no. ENV4-CT97-0563) for the period 1998–2000. This project carried out field investigations in various areas of Russia and Siberia (Taimyr Peninsula, Pechora Lowland, Arkhangelsk Region, Kola and NW Russian Plain) as well as glaciological modelling. Several other projects, supported by national research councils, universities and other research institutes have contributed to this synthesis. The Russian–Norwegian project “Paleo Environment and Climate History of the Russian Arctic” (PECHORA), funded by the Research Council of Norway, has investigated the Pechora Lowland, Polar Urals and parts of West Siberia during a 10 years period between 1993 and 2003. The co-authors under this project partnership include J.I. Svendsen, V.I. Astakhov, J. Mangerud, O. Nikolskaya, M. Henriksen and A. Matioushkov. Much of the work carried out by this Russian–Norwegian team, including the logistics, was arranged and implemented by the Institute of Remote Sensing Methods for Geology (NIIKAM), St. Petersburg. In collaboration with V. Gataullin and L. Polyak, University of Ohio, the PECHORA project was also involved in the complilation and interpretation of geological and geophysical data from the SE Barents Sea. The Swedish work on Taimyr Peninsula, that include the contributions by C. Hjort, P. Möller and H. Alexandersson, have been financially supported by the Swedish Natural Science Research Council (Contract no. G-AA/GU09362-307), the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Swedish Board for Nature Conservancy. The logistics have to a large extent also been financed by the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, through contracts with the INTAARI Company in St. Petersburg. Their main Russian scientific counterpart has been the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) in St.Petersburg, with D.Y. Bolshiyanov as project leader. Cooperation has also taken place with Danish scientists (project leader S. Funder, Geological Museum, Copenhagen). Two Russian–German projects, “Late Quaternary environmental evolution of Central Siberia” and “System Laptev Sea 2000”, carried out field investigations on the Taimyr Peninsula, Severnaya Zemlya and the Laptev Sea Coast. This group of QUEEN investigators, that include the co-authors H.W. Hubberten and C. Siegert, was supported by the German Ministry of Education, Research and Technology (BMBF). With support from BMBF and the Russian Foundation of Basic Research, R. Stein and F. Niessen investigated the sea floor sediments in the Kara Sea. R.F. Spielhagen, who analyzed sediment cores from the Arctic Ocean, was funded by the BMBF and by the German Science Foundation through the project “Paläoklimaprojekt” (grant Th200/39-1). The work in the Barents and Kara seas by L.Polyak and V.Gataullin was part of the Russian–American Initiative on Shelf-Land Environments in the Arctic (RAISE) and was supported by the US NSF awards OPP-9818247 and OPP-0221468”. The work in the Arkhangelsk region, that include contributions by E. Larsen, I. Demidov, M. Houmark-Nielsen, K.H. Kjær and A. Lyså, were supported by the Barents Secretariat, the Danish and Norwegian research councils, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, the Crawford Foundation, the Geological Survey of Norway, and the De Beers company. The investigations on Yamal and Yugorski peninsulas in 1997, 1998 and 1999 were carried out by a Swedish–American–Russian team, including Ó. Ingólfsson, H. Lokrantz, V. Gataullin, M. Leibman, S. Forman and W. Manley, financed and supported in various ways by the Swedish Natural Sciences Research Council, the US National Science Foundation, the Swedish Polar Reasearch Secretariat, the Earth Cryosphere Institute in Moscow, University of Göteborg and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The glaciological modelling work, carried out by J. Dowdeswell and M. Siegert, was supported by the UK Natural Environment Research Council. The maps with the reconstructed ice sheet limits were compiled by M. Jakobsson who was supported by NOAA Grant NA97OG0241. E. Bjørseth, University of Bergen helped with the figures. The paper were reviewed by Jon Landvik and Horst Hagedorn. We sincerely thank all persons and institutes who have supported and otherwise contributed to this synthesis.


Dive into the research topics of 'Late Quaternary ice sheet history of northern Eurasia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this