Apogean–perigean signals encoded in tidal flats at the fluvio–estuarine transition of Glacier Creek, Turnagain Arm, Alaska; implications for ancient tidal rhythmites



Turnagain Arm is a macrotidal fjord-style estuary. Glacier Creek is a small, glacially fed stream which enters the estuary tangentially near Girdwood, Alaska. Trenches and daily sedimentation measurements were made in a mudflat along the fluvio–estuarine transition of Glacier Creek during several summers since 2003. Each year, the flats appear to erode during the winter and then accrete vertically in the spring and summer. In each of the years studied, tidal laminae in vertically thickening and thinning laminae bundles were deposited by twice daily tides in neap–spring tidal cycles. In 2004, bundles of thickening and thinning laminae couplets were noted in trenches cut into the flats. Five laminae bundles alternated between thicker and thinner bundles, corresponding to the perigean (high spring) and apogean (low spring) tides. Well-preserved apogean–perigean cycles have rarely been documented in modern tidal flat sediments. At this location, vertical accretion of tidal rhythmites with well-developed neap–spring cyclicity is possible because of the near-complete removal of the flat from the previous year, which creates accommodation space for vertical accretion without significant reworking. Macrotidal conditions, no reworking by infaunal invertebrates, protection from the main tidal channel by a gravel bar and protection from storm waves and fluvial erosion by a recess in the sedge marsh that surrounds the flats all aid in preservation of rhythmites during aggradation. The position of the flats relative to tidal range allows for accumulation of complete spring cycles and incomplete neap cycles. In the summer of 2004, apogee and perigee were closely aligned with the new and full moons, resulting in successive strong perigee and apogee tides which probably aided in the accumulation of successive thick–thin spring cycles encoding the apogean and perigean tidal cycle. The apogean–perigean signal was not observed in subsequent years.