Sediment-rich meltwater plumes and ice-proximal fans at the margins of modern and ancient tidewater glaciers: Observations and modelling
Hogan, Kelly A
Mugford, Ruth I
Hirst, J Philip P
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Dowdeswell, J., Hogan, K. A., Arnold, N., Mugford, R. I., Wells, M., Hirst, J. P. P., & Decalf, C. (2015). Sediment-rich meltwater plumes and ice-proximal fans at the margins of modern and ancient tidewater glaciers: Observations and modelling. Sedimentology, 62 1665-1692. https://doi.org/10.1111/sed.12198
Turbid meltwater plumes and ice-proximal fans occur where subglacial streams reach the grounded marine margins of modern and ancient tidewater glaciers. However, the spacing and temporal stability of these subglacial channels is poorly understood. This has significant implications for understanding the geometry and distribution of Quaternary and ancient ice-proximal fans that can form important aquifers and hydrocarbon reservoirs. Remote-sensing and numerical-modelling techniques are applied to the 200 km-long marine margin of a Svalbard ice cap, Austfonna, to quantify turbid meltwaterplume distribution and predict its temporal stability. Results are combined with observations from geophysical data close to the modern ice front to refine existing depositional models for ice-proximal fans. Plumes are spaced about 3 km apart and their distribution along the ice front is stable over decades. Numerical modelling also predicts the drainage pattern and meltwater discharge beneath the ice cap; modelled water-routing patterns are in reasonable agreement with satellite-mapped plume locations. However, glacial retreat of several kilometres over the past 40 years has limited build-up of significant ice-proximal fans. A single fan and moraine ridge is noted from marine-geophysical surveys. Closer to the ice front there are smaller recessional moraines and polygonal sediment lobes but no identifiable fans. Schematic models of ice-proximal deposits represent varying glacierterminus stability: (i) stable terminus where meltwater sedimentation produces an ice-proximal fan; (ii) quasi-stable terminus, where glacier readvance pushes or thrusts up ice-proximal deposits into a morainal bank; (iii) retreating terminus, with short still-stands, allowing only small sediment lobes to build up at melt-stream portals. These modern investigations are complemented with outcrop and subsurface observations and numerical modelling of an ancient, Ordovician glacial system. Thick turbidite successions and large fans in the Late Ordovician suggest either high-magnitude events or sustained high discharge, consistent with a relatively mild palaeo-glacial setting.
We thank BP Algeria for sponsorship, Ed Jones and Liz Jolley of BP for supporting the project.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/sed.12198
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/247486