Deglaciation of a major palaeo-ice stream in Disko Trough, West Greenland
Recent work has confirmed that grounded ice reached the shelf break in central West Greenland during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Here we use a combination of marine sediment-core data, including glacimarine lithofacies and IRD proxy records, and geomorphological and acoustic facies evidence to examine the nature of and controls on the retreat of a major outlet of the western sector of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) across the shelf. Retreat of this outlet, which contained the ancestral Jakobshavns Isbræ ice stream, from the outer shelf in Disko Trough was rapid and progressed predominantly through iceberg calving, however, minor pauses in retreat (tens of years) occurred on the middle shelf at a trough narrowing forming subtle grounding-zone wedges. By 12.1 cal kyr BP ice had retreated to a basalt escarpment and shallow banks on the inner continental shelf, where it was pinned and stabilised for at least 100 years. During this time the ice margin appears to have formed a calving bay over the trough and melting became an important mechanism of ice-mass loss. Fine-grained sediments (muds) were deposited alternately with IRD-rich sediments (diamictons) forming a characteristic deglacial lithofacies that may be related to seasonal climatic cycles. High influxes of subglacial meltwater, emanating from the nearby ice margins, deposited muddy sediments during the warmer summer months whereas winters were dominated by iceberg calving leading to the deposition of the diamictons. This is the first example of this glacimarine lithofacies from a continental-shelf setting and we suggest that the calving-bay configuration of the ice margin, plus the switching between calving and melting as ablation mechanisms, facilitated its deposition by channelling meltwater and icebergs through the inner trough. The occurrence of a major stillstand on the inner shelf in Disko Trough demonstrates that the ice-dynamical response to local topography was a crucial control on the behaviour of a major outlet in this sector of the GrIS during retreat.
Authors: Hogan, Kelly A., O Cofaigh, Colm, Jennings, Anne E., Dowdeswell, Julian A., Hiemstra, John F.