Identification of Variability in Sub-Arctic Sea Ice Conditions During the Younger Dryas and Holocene

Patricia Cabedo Sanz

PhD – November 2013

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Plymouth University, Plymouth, U.K.

The presence of the sea ice diatom biomarker IP25 in Arctic marine sediments has been used in previous studies as a proxy for past spring sea ice occurrence and as an indicator of wider palaeoenvironmental conditions for different regions of the Arctic over various timescales.

The current study describes a number of analytical and palaeoceanographic developments of the IP25 sea ice biomarker. First, IP25 was extracted and purified from Arctic marine sediments. This enabled the structure of IP25 to be confirmed and enabled instrumental (GC-MS) calibrations to be carried out so that quantitative measurements could be performed with greater accuracy.

Second, palaeo sea ice reconstructions based on IP25 and other biomarkers were carried out for a suite of sub-Arctic areas within the Greenland, Norwegian and Barents Seas, each of which represent contrasting oceanographic and environmental settings. Further, an evaluation of some combined biomarker approaches (e.g. the PIP25 and DIP25 indices) for quantifying and/or refining definitions of sea ice conditions was carried out. Temporally, particular emphasis was placed on the characterisation of sea ice conditions during the Younger Dryas and the Holocene. Some comparisons with other proxies (e.g. foraminifera, IRD) were also made.

A study of a sediment core from Andfjorden (69.16°N, 16.25°E), northern Norway, provided unequivocal evidence for the occurrence of seasonal sea ice conditions during the Younger Dryas. The onset (ca. 12.9 cal. kyr BP) and end (ca. 11.5 cal. kyr BP) of this stadial were especially clear in this location, while in a study from the Kveithola Trough (74.52°N, 16.29°E), western Barents Sea, these transitions were less apparent. This was attributed to the presence of colder surface waters and the occurrence of seasonal sea ice both before and after this stadial at higher latitudes. Some regional differences regarding the severity of the sea ice conditions were also observed, although an overall general picture was proposed, with more severe sea ice conditions during the early-mid Younger Dryas and less sea ice observed during the late Younger Dryas.

A shift in the climate towards ice-free conditions was recorded in northern Norway during the early Holocene (ca. 11.5 – 7.2 cal. kyr BP). Milder conditions were also observed during the Holocene in the western Barents Sea, with three main climate periods observed. During the early Holocene (ca. 11.7 – 9.5 cal. kyr BP), the position of the spring ice edge was close to the study area which resulted in high productivity during summers. During the mid-late Holocene (ca. 9.5 – 1.6 cal. kyr BP), sea ice was mainly absent due to an increased influence of Atlantic waters and northward movement of the Polar Front. During the last ca. 1.6 cal. kyr BP, sea ice conditions were similar to those of the present day.

In addition to the outcomes obtained from the Norwegian-Barents Sea region, comparison of biomarker and other proxy data from 3 short cores from Kangerdlugssuaq Trough (Denmark Strait/SE Greenland) with historical climate observations allowed the development of a model of sea ice conditions which was then tested for longer time-scales. It is suggested that the IP25 in sediments from this region is likely derived from drift ice carried from the Arctic Ocean via the East Greenland Current and that two main sea surface scenarios have existed over the last ca. 150 yr. From ca. AD 1850 – 1910, near perennial sea ice conditions resulted in very low primary productivity, while from ca. AD 1910 – 1986, local sea ice conditions were less severe with increased drift ice and enhanced primary productivity. This two-component model was subsequently developed to accommodate different sea surface conditions that existed during the retreat of the Greenland Ice Sheet during the deglaciation (ca. 16.3 – 10.9 cal. kyr BP).

Copyright 2013 P. Cabedo Sanz. All rights reserved.

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