Emergent Dead Vegetation and Paired Cosmogenic Isotope Constraints on Ice Cap Activity, Baffin Island, Arctic Canada

Friday, 19 December 2014
Simon Pendleton, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States and Gifford H Miller, University of Colorado, INSTAAR and Geological Sciences, Boulder, CO, United States
Recent summer warming has now raised the equilibrium line above almost all ice caps on Baffin Island, resulting in surface lowering and marginal recession everywhere. As cold-based ice recedes it frequently exposes in situ tundra plants that were living at the time ice expanded across the site. Radiocarbon dates for each plant records when cold summers dropped regional snowline below the site, killing the plants, and snowline remained below the site until the collection date. The kill dates also represent the last time that the climate was warm enough to expose the sampling location. Seventy-six vegetation samples collected in 2013 from the Penny Ice Cap region have been dated, with significant age populations at ~0.5, 1.8, 2.3, and 3.6 ka. The absence of ages around ~1, 2, 3, 4.5, and 5.5 ka suggest periods of either no snowline depression or stability. Sixteen vegetation samples returned ages of >45 ka (2 revisited sites from 2010, 14 new). It is postulated that these radiocarbon dead samples were last exposed during the last interglaciation (~120 ka), the last time climate was as warm as present. In addition to plant collections, bedrock exposures at the ice margins were sampled for 26Al/10Be cosmogenic nuclide dating. Seven samples from and around the Penny Ice cap have returned maximum exposure ages from ~ 0.6-0.9 ma and total histories of ~0.6-1.5 ma. In general, samples from the larger Penny Ice Cap exhibited lower amounts of exposure (~20% of total history) than those samples from smaller, localized ice caps (~55%). Radiocarbon dead sites north of the Penny Ice cap experienced significantly more exposure over their lifetimes than their counterparts east of the Penny Ice cap, suggesting significant differences in local and regional land ice fluctuations over the last 2 million years. Utilizing both the method of in situ moss and 26Al/10Be dating provides new insight into both the recent activity and long-term evolution of ice on Baffin Island. In particular these new data help to shed light on how late Holocene coolings affect both large and small ice bodies and how this behavior is represented in the longer-term burial/exposure record contained within the rock surface.