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Cyclic sedimentation produced by fluctuations in meltwater discharge, tides and marine productivity in an Alaskan fjord



Glacimarine sediment deposited in the fjord adjacent to Muir Glacier in south-eastern Alaska consists of rhythmically laminated muds, stratified sandy mud, sand and gravelly mud facies. Cyclicity is recorded by gravelly mud facies deposited during winter by ice-rafting, black mud laminae formed by spring plankton blooms and variations in tidal rhythmite thickness and texture produced by the interaction of meltwater discharges and tidal currents in the macrotidal fjord. Regular cyclicity in laminae thickness is tested statistically by Fourier transform and can be attributed to a lunar tidal cycle control in the five cores collected up to 6 km from the sediment source. Cores close to the source can have additional laminae as a result of discharge fluctuations, and distal cores may lack full cycles because of variability in the plume path and attenuation with distance. Cyclic variations in sediment texture are recorded in magnetic susceptibility (MS) profiles of the cores. High MS values are produced by turbidite sand beds or by stratified sandy mud deposited by overflow plumes during peak summer meltwater discharge. Low values reflect muddy intervals deposited during periods of low meltwater discharge, such as during autumn and winter. Sediment accumulation rates measured by 210Pb dating range from 82 cm year–1, 2 km from the sediment source at the head of the fjord, to 16 cm year–1, 6 km away. These rates are within the same range as average sediment accumulation rates determined from cyclic seasonal markers within the cores. These data show that, with careful documentation, annual cycles of glacimarine sediment accumulation can be detected within marine cores. Cores collected from the distal portion of the basin were deposited during the transition of Muir Glacier from a tidewater terminus ending in deep water to a terrestrial glacier with an ice-contact delta deposited in front of the terminus. This transition is recorded by a coarsening-upward sedimentary sequence formed by turbidite sands originating from the prograding delta above fine-grained, laminated basin fill deposited by turbid overflow plumes.

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