Seismic stratigraphic evidence for glacial expanse during glacial maxima in the Yakutat Bay Region, Gulf of Alaska



[1] Modern shelf bathymetry bordering the Gulf of Alaska exhibits shelf-crossing sea valleys that suggest focused pathways for ice flow during glacial conditions. Using an integrated seismic data set between the present Yakutat and Alsek Sea Valleys, we investigate the glacial stratigraphic record in order to improve our understanding of the regional glacial system during maximum glacial conditions. Our investigations reveal four glacial unconformities, of which, the latter two are overlain by sediment packages hundreds of meters thick. We suggest that these unconformities are indicative of ice advance phases during the Little Ice Age (LIA), the Last Glacial Maxima (LGM), and two pre-LGM advances with glacial retreat sequences preserved from the youngest two. The advances were dominated by ice expanse from the Malaspina Glacial system and Alsek River districts rather than the Hubbard Glacial system and only show distinctive morainal bank development near the shelf edge and near the mouth of, or within, modern bays, fjords, or river valleys. This observation strongly supports rapid and continuous retreat from glacial maxima conditions during climatic warming. All, except the inferred LIA sequence, transgress the shelf and exhibit concentrated erosion in overdeepened troughs, analogous to cross-shelf troughs similar to those observed on other high-latitude glaciated shelves. The two Alaskan troughs discussed here may be end-member examples of high-sediment flux systems due to the temperate glacial setting combined with an actively exhuming orogen.