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New insights into sea ice changes over the past 2.2 kyr in Disko Bugt, West Greenland


Past sea ice conditions and open water phytoplankton production were reconstructed from a sediment core taken in Disko Bugt, West Greenland, using the sea ice biomarker IP25 and other specific phytoplankton biomarker (i.e., brassicasterol, dinosterol, HBI III) records. Our biomarker record indicates that Disko Bugt experienced a gradual expansion of seasonal sea ice during the last 2.2 kyr. Maximum sea ice extent was reached during the Little Ice Age around 0.2 kyr BP. Superimposed on this longer term trend, we find short-term oscillations in open water primary production and terrigenous input, which may be related to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and solar activity changes as potential climatic trigger mechanisms. A direct sample-to-sample multiproxy comparison of our new biomarker record with microfossil (i.e., benthic foraminifera, dinocysts, and diatoms) and other geochemical records (i.e., alkenone biomarkers) indicates that different proxies are influenced by the complex environmental system with pronounced seasonal changes and strong oceanographic gradients, e.g., freshwater inflow from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Differences in sea ice reconstructions may indicate that the IP25 record reflects only the relatively short sea ice season (spring), whereas other microfossil reconstructions may reflect a longer (spring–autumn) interval.

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Financial support for this study was provided by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft through ‘ArcTrain’ (GRK 1904). We wish to thank the captain, crew and science party of the R/V Maria S. Merian expedition MSM 05/03. We would like to thank Walter Luttmer for laboratory support. Thanks to Simon Belt and colleagues (Biogeochemistry Research Centre, University of Plymouth) for providing the internal standard for IP25 analysis. Kerstin Perner has been funded through the DFG Grant PE2071/2–2. We thank two anonymous reviewers for the comments, which clearly led to an improved version of the original manuscript.

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Correspondence to Henriette M. Kolling.

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Supplementary Fig S1 Satellite measured monthly sea ice concentrations in Baffin Bay from 1978-2015 (Cavalieri et al., 1996; updated 2015). The white diamond indicates the position of Core 343310. (TIF 8239 KB)


Supplementary Fig S2: Age depth model for (a) gravity core 343310-5-1 based on Perner et al. (2011). And (b) multi core 343310-2-2 based on Llyod et al. (2011). (TIF 8512 KB)


Supplementary Fig S3 Biomarker concentrations (a) campesterol+ß-sitosterol, (b) dinosterol, (c) brassicasterol, (d) HBI III, (e) HBI II, (f) IP25 (all in µg/g sediment) and total organic carbon content (TOC; in %) of Core 343310 against depth (cm). (TIF 6825 KB)


Supplementary Fig S4 Comparison of the indices PIIIIP25, PBIP25 and PDIP25 (red line) from Core 343310. PBIP25 and PDIP25 showing nearly identical values. (TIF 1718 KB)

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Kolling, H.M., Stein, R., Fahl, K. et al. New insights into sea ice changes over the past 2.2 kyr in Disko Bugt, West Greenland. Arktos 4, 1–20 (2018).

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  • Baffin Bay
  • Disko Bugt
  • Late Holocene
  • IP25
  • Brassicasterol
  • PIP25