Holocene Fluctuations of North Ice Cap, a Proxy for Climate Conditions along the Northwestern Margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
North Ice Cap (~76.9°N, 68°W, summit elevation 1322 m asl), a small, independent ice cap in northwestern Greenland, is located within ~25 km of the Greenland Ice Sheet margin and Harald Molkte Bræ outlet glacier. We present geochronological, geomorphic and sedimentological data constraining the Holocene extents of North Ice Cap and suggest that its past fluctuations can be used as a proxy for climate conditions along the northwestern margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Prior work by Goldthwait (1960) used glacial geomorphology and radiocarbon ages of subfossil plants emerging along shear planes in the ice cap margin to suggest that that North Ice Cap was not present during the early Holocene and nucleated in the middle to late Holocene time, with the onset of colder conditions. Subfossil plants emerging at shear planes in the North Ice Cap margin yield radiocarbon ages of ~4.8-5.9 cal kyr BP (Goldthwait, 1960) and ~AD 1000-1350 (950-600 cal yr BP), indicating times when the ice cap was smaller than at present. In situ subfossil plants exposed by recent ice cap retreat date to ~AD 1500-1840 (450-110 cal yr BP) and indicate small fluctuations of the ice cap margin. 10Be ages of an unweathered, lichen-free drift <100 m from the present North Ice Cap margin range from ~500 to 8000 yrs ago. We suggest that the drift was deposited during the last ~500 yrs and that the older 10Be ages are influenced by 10Be inherited from a prior period of exposure. We also infer ice cap fluctuations using geochemical data from a Holocene-long sediment core from Deltasø, a downstream lake that currently receives meltwater from North Ice Cap. The recent recession of the North Ice Cap margin influenced a catastrophic drainage of a large proglacial lake, Søndre Snesø, that our field team documented in August 2012. To our knowledge, this is the first significant lowering of Søndre Snesø in historical time.