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Holocene history of the Greenland Ice-Sheet margin in Northern Nunatarssuaq, Northwest Greenland

Abstract

Records of past Greenland Ice-Sheet (GrIS) extents are important for understanding the response of the ice sheet to climate conditions, providing a longer term perspective on present ice-margin fluctuations, and evaluating ice-sheet models. We present a record of Holocene GrIS extents in Nunatarssuaq, Northwest Greenland, based on geomorphic mapping combined with 10Be surface exposure dating of rock surfaces and 14C dating of subfossil plants. 10Be ages of boulders and bedrock exposed during deglaciation from the Last Glacial Maximum range from ~ 81 to 15 ka. The apparently old ages of some samples and scatter in the dataset indicate the presence of 10Be inherited from prior periods of exposure and suggest that overriding ice was minimally erosive. Subfossil plants exposed on a debris band in the GrIS margin date to ~ 4.7 cal ka BP and register a time when the Northwest GrIS was smaller than at present. Geomorphic evidence, including a drift sheet, grounding-line moraines, and higher levels of Nordsø, document an advance of the Nuna and Tunge Rampen (GrIS outlet glaciers). 14C ages of in situ subfossil plants and 10Be ages of boulders bracket this advance to ~ 3.2–2.1 ka, a period of regional cooling. Unweathered, lichen-free drift occurs < 50 m beyond the present GrIS margin in most locations. 10Be ages of this drift are 2.2–0.5 ka and likely contain inherited nuclides. 14C ages of in situ subfossil plants atop this drift are between cal AD ~ 1640 and 2001, suggesting recent ice-margin fluctuations.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the field team from 2012 (M. Bigl, L. Corbett, E. Roy, J. Thompson) and the field team from 2014 (J. McFarlin, E. Lasher, A. Taylor). Logistical field support was provided by K. Young, K. Cosper, and J. Hurley at CH2MHILL Polar Services and Air Greenland. S. Whitecloud identified subfossil plants. J. Chipman and A. Doughty advised remote sensing work. We appreciate the help from the staff and technicians at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution-National Ocean Sciences Accelerator Mass Spectrometry. This project was supported by the National Science Foundation Grants ARC-1108306 to Y. Axford and ARC-1107411 to E. Osterberg and M. Kelly. This is LLNL-JRNL-748765.

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Farnsworth, L.B., Kelly, M.A., Bromley, G.R.M. et al. Holocene history of the Greenland Ice-Sheet margin in Northern Nunatarssuaq, Northwest Greenland. Arktos 4, 1–27 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41063-018-0044-0

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Keywords

  • Holocene
  • Greenland Ice Sheet
  • Cosmogenic nuclide surface exposure dating
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Glacial geomorphology