Flow dynamics, sedimentation and erosion of glacial lake outburst floods along the Middle Pleistocene Scandinavian Ice Sheet (northern central Europe)

Jutta Winsemann*, Petteri Alho, Leena Laamanen, Nils Goseberg, Jörg Lang, Josef Klostermann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


During the Middle Pleistocene late Saalian glaciation of northern central Europe numerous pro-glacial lakes formed along the southwestern margin of the Scandinavian Ice Sheet. Little is known about the drainage history of these lakes, the pathways of glacial lake outburst floods and their impacts on erosion, sedimentation and landscape evolution. This study investigated the impact of the late Saalian Weser and Münsterland Lake (Germany) outburst floods. In particular, we reconstructed the routing and flow dynamics of the lake outburst flood and analysed the flood related sediments. We employed one-dimensional hydraulic modelling to calculate glacial lake outburst flood hydrographs. We modelled the flow pathway and local flow conditions along the pathway based on the boundary conditions of two different hydrographs and two different ice-margin positions. The modelling results were compared with geomorphological and sedimentological field data in order to estimate the magnitude and impact of the flood on erosion and sedimentation. Two major lake drainage events are reconstructed for the study area, during which approximately 90-50 km3 of water was released. Modelling results indicate that the lake outburst floods created a high-energy flood wave with a height of 35-50 m in confined valley areas that rapidly spread out into the Lower Rhine Embayment eventually flowing into the North Sea basin. The sedimentary record of the outburst floods comprises poorly sorted coarse-grained gravel bars, long-wavelength bedforms and sandy bedforms deposited by supercritical and subcritical flows. Some parts of the sandy flood deposits are rich in reworked mammoth bones or mammoth and horse teeth, pointing to reworking of older fluvial sediments, hydraulic concentration and subsequent re-sedimentation of vertebrate remains. These deposits are preserved in sheltered areas or at high elevations, well above the influence of postglacial fluvial erosion. The flood-related erosional features include up to 80-m-deep scour pools, alluvial channels and streamlined hills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-283
Number of pages24
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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