Late Holocene solifluction history reconstructed using tephrochronology
Phases of activity of four solifluction lobes at an altitude of 750–800 m are dated by tephrochronology at Snaefell, central eastern Iceland (64°48′ N 15°33′ E). The sample includes sorted lobes with tread gradients of 3–11° and unsorted (turf-banked terraces) in slope-foot locations. Trenches through lobe fronts reveal detailed internal structures picked out by multiple tephra layers. The tephras V1717, V1477, Ö1362, V870, Hekla-3 (2900 years BP) and Hekla-4 (3800 years BP) provide isochronous surfaces of known age whose deformation and disturbance indicate mass movement and/or cryoturbation of the soil cover. Undisturbed soil including the Hekla-3 tephra indicates an absence of solifluction prior to 2900 years BP. Several centuries after Hekla-3, gravel-rich horizons mark widespread frost heave and solifluction of hillslopes. Later stabilization of these lobes allowed the accumulation of aprons of aeolian sediment below lee-side risers. These aprons contain in situ mediaeval tephras, dating the inception of solifluction to a considerable time prior to Norse settlement. The likely period of this first phase of solifluction is the Later Bog Period of the Subatlantic, c. 2500–1000 years BP. The aprons are currently being overridden and deformed by solifluction lobes reactivated in the Little Ice Age.