Origin of ice-rafted debris: Pleistocene paleoceanography in the western Arctic Ocean


  • Jens Bischof,

  • David L. Clark,

  • Jean-Serge Vincent


The composition of Pleistocene ice-rafted debris (IRD) >250 µm was analyzed quantitatively by grain counting in five sediment cores from the western central Arctic Ocean and compared with the composition of till clasts from NW Canada in order to determine the dropstone origin and to reconstruct the Pleistocene ice driftways and surface currents. The IRD composition alternates repeatedly between carbonate- and quartz-dominated assemblages, along with metamorphic and igneous rocks, clastic rocks, and some chert. The highest quartz content is found on the Alpha Ridge, while carbonate percentages are highest on the Northwind Ridge (NWR) and the Chukchi Cap. The source for the carbonates is the area around Banks and Victoria Islands and parts of northern Canada. Quartz most likely originated from the central Queen Elizabeth Islands. IRD on the southeastern Alpha Ridge is dominated by mafic crystalline rocks from northern Ellesmere Island and northern Greenland. At least six major glacial intervals are identified within the last 1 million years, during which icebergs drifted toward the west in the Beaufort Sea, straight northward in the central Arctic Ocean, and northeastward on the SE Alpha Ridge.