A geomorphology based reconstruction of ice volume distribution at the Last Glacial Maximum across the Southern Alps of New Zealand

William H. M. James, Jonathan L. Carrivick, Duncan Joseph Quincey, Neil Glasser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (SciVal)
228 Downloads (Pure)


We present a 3D reconstruction of ice thickness distribution across the New Zealand Southern Alps at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, c. 30–18 ka). To achieve this, we used a perfect plasticity model which could easily be applied to other regions, hereafter termed REVOLTA (Reconstruction of Volume and Topography Automation). REVOLTA is driven by a Digital Elevation Model (DEM), which was modified to best represent LGM bed topography. Specifically, we removed contemporary ice, integrated offshore bathymetry and removed contemporary lakes. A review of valley in-fill sediments, uplift and denudation was also undertaken. Down-valley ice extents were constrained to an updated geo-database of LGM ice limits, whilst the model was tuned to best-fit known vertical limits from geomorphological and geochronological dating studies. We estimate a total LGM ice volume of 6,800 km3, characterised predominantly by valley style glaciation but with an ice cap across Fiordland. With a contemporary ice volume of approximately 50 km3, this represents a loss of 99.25% since the LGM. Using the newly created ice surface, equilibrium line altitudes (ELAs) for each glacier were reconstructed, revealing an average ELA depression of approximately 950 m from present. Analysis of the spatial variation of glacier-specific ELAs and their depression relative to today shows that whilst an east-west ELA gradient existed during the LGM it was less pronounced than at present. The reduced ELA gradient is attributed to an overall weakening of westerlies, a conclusion consistent with those derived from the latest independent climate models
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-35
Number of pages16
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date13 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2019


  • geomorphology
  • glacial
  • glaciation
  • glaciology
  • quaternary
  • Southern pacific
  • Glaciation
  • Glaciology
  • Geomorphology
  • Quaternary
  • Glacial


Dive into the research topics of 'A geomorphology based reconstruction of ice volume distribution at the Last Glacial Maximum across the Southern Alps of New Zealand'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this