Niveo-aeolian deposits and denivation forms, with special reference to the great Kobuk Sand Dunes, Northwestern Alaska

Authors

  • Eduard A. Koster,

    1. Physical Geography and Soil Science Laboratory, University of Amsterdam, Dapperstraat 115, 1093 BS Amsterdam. The Netherlands
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Geography, State University of Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 2, P.O. Box 80,115, 3508 TC Utrecht. The Netherlands
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  • Jos W. A. Dijkmans

    1. Physical Geography and Soil Science Laboratory, University of Amsterdam, Dapperstraat 115, 1093 BS Amsterdam. The Netherlands
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Geography, State University of Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 2, P.O. Box 80,115, 3508 TC Utrecht. The Netherlands
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Abstract

The geomorphology, lithology and chronostratigraphy of extensive, late Pleistocene inland and river dune sands, aeolian sand sheets (‘cover sands’) and loess deposits of periglacial origin in northwestern Europe are well known. However, the idea that some of these aeolian sediments result from niveo-aeolian processes is still an open question, as no diagnostic sedimentary features have yet been reported. Moreover, actual niveo-aeolian sediments and related denivation forms, reported from various cold-climate regions, are not suitable analogues. Recent observations in active dune fields in northwestern Alaska indicate that interstratification of wind-driven snow and sand preferentially occurs on slip faces of transverse, barchanoid or parabolic dune ridges. Annual denivation forms develop: e.g. snow ramparts, sinkholes, snow hummocks, snow meltwater fans and tensional cracks. The surface consists of a cracked wet sand layer with a dimpled surface and spongy structure. Although the preservation potential of these features is low in this specific case, similar features may be observed in ancient sediments elsewhere and provide useful palaeoclimatic indicators. The niveo-aeolian concept should therefore not specifically be related to late Pleistocene cover sand deposition in northwestern Europe, as previously assumed.

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