Middle to late Quaternary grain size variations and sea-ice rafting on the Lomonosov Ridge

Sea ice and icebergs are the dominant transport agents for sand-sized material to the central Arctic Ocean. However, few studies have investigated concurrent changes in the silt-sized fraction of Arctic sediments. Here we present an analysis of the coarse fraction content and silt grain size composition from middle and late Quaternary sediments recovered from the Lomonosov Ridge, in the central Arctic Ocean. A significant shift in the grain size record occurs at the marine isotope stage (MIS) 6/7 boundary, where larger amplitude variability in the sand fraction is seen in glacial and stadial periods. Below the MIS6/7 boundary, variations in the coarse fraction content are less pronounced, but prominent changes in the silt size fraction appear to define glacial and interglacial periods. Throughout the record, the percent weight of sortable silt in the fine fraction (SS % wtfines), sortable silt mean size, and coarse silt content all increase as the >63 µm % wt content increases. This is consistent with observations of grain size spectra obtained from modern sea-ice samples, and indicates a strong overprint from sea ice on the silt distribution. The mechanism by which this sea-ice signal is preserved in the sediments across glacial and interglacial periods remains unclear. We suggest that the coarsening of silt-sized material during glacial periods could be attributed to either the entrainment of larger size fractions during suspension/anchor ice formation when sea levels are lowered, or diminished input and advection of fine fraction material during glacial periods.

Keywords: Pleistocene; Lomonosov Ridge; grain size; sea ice.

(Published: 26 June 2014)

Citation: Polar Research 2014, 33, 23672, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v33.23672

Read full article on CryoNews