Elemental composition of smectite minerals in continental rise sediments from the Amundsen Sea, West Antarctica, as a tool to identify detrital input from various sources throughout late Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycles

Detrital smectite is a ubiquitous clay mineral in marine sediments and has a variable total Fe, Al, and Mg composition depending on the source, i.e., bedrock or unconsolidated sedimentary strata, the smectite is derived from. Analyses of elemental composition of smectite minerals in marine sediments can help to differentiate the smectite sources and, thus, sediment provenance, with potentially far-reaching paleo-environmental implications. In this study, we investigated the smectite compositions of modern-latest Holocene seafloor surface sediments deposited offshore from the Amundsen Sea drainage sector, where the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is currently unstable and losing mass due to ocean-forced melting, to detect and understand the variabilities of their elemental composition and geographical distribution. The smectite composition in continental rise sediments was compared to that of potential source areas on the Amundsen Sea continental shelf and in the sub-Antarctic South Pacific basin. Furthermore, we analyzed the smectite composition of sediments in continental rise cores deposited during the last glacial and last interglacial periods to reconstruct source variations over glacial- interglacial cycles. In particular, high contents of Al–Fe-rich smectite indicate that the glacial sediments had been supplied from the coastal region around Pine Island Bay by the cross-shelf advance of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet during the last glacial period. This clearly contrasts with the smectite minerals in rise sediments deposited during the present and the last interglacial periods that are composed of two distinct smectite types (Mg-rich and Al-rich, respectively), indicating their supply from multiple sources. During interglacials, Mg-rich smectite is probably transported by Circumpolar Deep Water from the sub-Antarctic South Pacific basin to the continental rise, while Al-rich smectite is supplied as part of ice rafted debris and by marine currents from the coasts around the Amundsen Sea embayment. Our research demonstrates that analysis of the elemental composition of smectite minerals on the Amundsen Sea continental margin provides a valuable tool to trace variations in sources for detrital sediment components and their pathways throughout glacial-interglacial cycles.


Publication status:
Published Online
Authors: Park, Young Kyu, Hillenbrand, Claus-Dieter ORCIDORCID record for Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand, Ehrmann, Werner, Park, Hanbeom, Wellner, Julia S., Horrocks, Jennifer R., Kim, Jinwook

On this site: Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand
21 April, 2024
Chemical Geology / 657
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