The author(s) will give a talk

A database for submarine glacial landforms and glacimarine sediments in the High-Arctic

Streuff, Katharina T. 1 ; Ó Cofaigh, Colm 2

1 University of Bremen
2 Durham University

Paleo-ice sheets have been the focus of research investigations for decades and their reconstruction, especially with regards to past configuration and extent, has become increasingly important to reliably predict the future of our cryosphere. Glacially formed landform-sediment assemblages on the seafloor of Polar continental shelves provide important information in this context, as they record relevant processes, such as ice streaming, glacier advances, or ice front still-stands and oscillations. High-Arctic fjords, where many contemporary glaciers still terminate in tidewater and drain the remainders of larger ice sheets, are of particular interest for a number of reasons: (i) they represent the direct interface between terrestrial, atmospheric, oceanic, and cryospheric processes; (ii) they archive glacial evolution at a high temporal resolution; (iii) their morphology can cause a feedback effect between increased subglacial melt and the internal glaciology of the outlet glacier, thus significantly affecting overall ice sheet mass balance; and (iv) through ongoing ice retreat continuously younger deposits are revealed, which provide a unique opportunity to study the effect of current global warming on contemporary ice masses. Despite these advantages, however, fjords are usually only suitable to study modern and relatively recent depositional processes, while deposits on the mid- and outer continental shelves are more useful to reconstruct large-scale ice dynamics over longer time periods.

Apart from glacier bed morphology, geographic location and presumed associated internal structure of the ice are believed to be factors affecting the glacimarine sedimentary processes and dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets. Accordingly, glaciers in Alaska and southern Chile were suggested to represent the most temperate glacimarine environment with predominantly warm-based glaciers and deposition almost exclusively related to meltwater. Conversely, East Greenland and Antarctica are defined as the significantly colder, Polar glacimarine settings, with a majority of cold-based glaciers much more prone to deposition directly from the ice. Apart from this general classification, however, the internal glacier structure also affects the resulting landform-sediment assemblages. This is especially evident in Svalbard, where many glaciers have been found to undergo somewhat regular cycles of advance and retreat, so-called surges, leading to the formation of characteristic landforms and sedimentary records.

In light of these many variables controlling glacimarine sedimentation and ice dynamics, there is currently a wealth of publications on former ice sheet margin positions, submarine glacial landforms, glacial lithofacies and the glacimarine sedimentary processes observed both on the open continental shelf and in fjords. However, these are often locally constrained and make it difficult to compare glacial deposits across the globe. Furthermore, due to the fact that data have rarely been collected in a systematic manner, documentations are highly variable in quality. The lack of a coherent terminology for landforms and lithofacies, subjective styles of landform and sediment interpretation, selective presentation of the geomorphological record, and data limitations all resulted in inconsistent, difficult-to-synthesise evidence. It is therefore challenging to fully comprehend the large-scale dynamics of former and contemporary ice sheets despite their relevance for future sea level.

In an effort to facilitate and underpin future research, as well as to improve the quality of forthcoming ice-sheet models, we have created a digital Geographic Information System-based database, which compiles sediments and glacial landforms from High-Arctic fjords and continental shelves in a systematic manner. The database documents evidence of previous glacial activity as visible on the modern seafloor around Svalbard, Greenland, and Alaska, in the Barents and Kara Seas and around Arctic Canada (defined here as north of 66°30’ N). It is based on extensive literature research and includes (i) sediment core locations with a description and classification of sampled lithofacies, (ii) radiocarbon dates deemed relevant for constraining the timing of paleo-ice dynamics, and (iii) glacial landforms. The latter include cross-shelf troughs, trough-mouth fans, and grounding-zone wedges, overridden moraines, glacial lineations, drumlins, and crag-and-tails, medial, terminal, recessional and De Geer moraines, debris-flow lobes and glacier-contact fans, crevasse-fill ridges, eskers, and submarine channels. Outlines of bathymetric data used for the description and interpretation of glacial landforms were mapped to give an overview of areas where research has already been conducted. The database is intended as a basis for future modelling of High-Arctic glacier and ice sheet dynamics and, once published, will be freely accessible via download. It will aid researchers in the interpretation of glacial landform-sediment assemblages and the reconstruction of ice dynamics during and since the Last Glacial Maximum. It will further inspire future field work, while also providing a comprehensive bibliography on Arctic glacial geomorphological and sedimentological research.