Deformation in the Neoproterozoic Smalfjord Formation, northern Norway: an indicator of glacial depositional conditions?



Recent studies on Neoproterozoic climate change have prompted renewed interest in Neoproterozoic glacial deposits and renewed debate over the criteria used to identify the nature of glacial influence on sedimentation. Analyses of soft sediment deformation structures have provided important clues to distinguish between competing palaeoenvironmental interpretations of Quaternary glacial deposits; a similar approach is presented here in the analysis of Neoproterozoic glacial deposits of the Smalfjord Formation, northern Norway. A detailed sedimentological and structural analysis at several sites in the Varangerfjorden area reveals complex soft sediment deformation at various scales in conglomerate, sandstone and diamictite. Deformation is predominantly ductile and includes anticlinal and synclinal folding, flow noses, flame structures, recumbent folding and shear structures. The deformed sediments are associated predominantly with conglomerate and sandstone, which record glaciofluvial and deltaic depositional conditions. Some deformations can be attributed to rapid deposition and slumping, whereas others appear to record shear stress associated with overriding ice. The scale, style and range of deformation, together with the coarse-grained nature of the deformed sediments and facies associations, suggest that these were unfrozen outwash sediments that were overridden by ice and resedimented in a dynamic ice-proximal setting. Whereas recent studies of diamictite-bearing strata of the Smalfjord Formation had revealed no clear evidence of glacial influence on deposition, deformation structures documented here suggest that glacial conditions prevailed on the basin margin during deposition of Smalfjord Formation sediments, with sedimentary facies and deformation structures typical of temperate ice-proximal settings.