Subglacial bed conditions during Late Pleistocene glaciations and their impact on ice dynamics in the southern North Sea

Authors

  • SANDRA PASSCHIER,

    1. Department of Earth and Environmental Studies, Montclair State University, 1 Normal Ave, 252 Mallory Hall, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043, USA
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  • CEES LABAN,

    1. Geology Division, TNO Built, Environment and Geosciences, Princetonlaan 6, NL-3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • CHRIS S. MESDAG,

    1. Geology Division, TNO Built, Environment and Geosciences, Princetonlaan 6, NL-3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • KENNETH F. RIJSDIJK

    1. National Museum of Natural History, Naturalis, Darwinweg 2, 2333 CR Leiden and IBED University of Amsterdam, Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica, Nieuwe Achtergracht 166, 1018 WV Amsterdam and Geology Division, TNO Built, Environment and Geosciences, Princetonlaan 6, NL-3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • Sandra Passchier (e-mail: passchiers@mail.montclair.edu), Department of Earth and Environmental Studies, Montclair State University, 1 Normal Ave, 252 Mallory Hall, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043, USA; Cees Laban and Chris S. Mesdag, Geology Division, TNO Built, Environment and Geosciences, Princetonlaan 6, NL-3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands; Kenneth F. Rijsdijk, National Museum of Natural History, Naturalis, Darwinweg 2, 2333 CR Leiden and IBED University of Amsterdam, Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica, Nieuwe Achtergracht 166, 1018 WV Amsterdam and Geology Division, TNO Built, Environment and Geosciences, Princetonlaan 6, NL-3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands

Abstract

Passchier, S., Laban, C., Mesdag, C.S. & Rijsdijk, K.F. 2010: Subglacial bed conditions during Late Pleistocene glaciations and their impact on ice dynamics in the southern North Sea. Boreas, Vol. 39, pp. 633–647. 10.1111/j.1502-3885.2009.00138.x. ISSN 0300-9483.

Changes in subglacial bed conditions through multiple glaciations and their effect on ice dynamics are addressed through an analysis of glacigenic sequences in the Upper Pleistocene stratigraphy of the southern North Sea basin. During Elsterian (MIS 12) ice growth, till deposition was subdued when ice became stagnant over a permeable substrate of fluvial sediments, and meltwater infiltrated into the bed. Headward erosion during glacial retreat produced a dense network of glacial valleys up to several hundreds of metres deep. A Saalian (MIS 6) glacial advance phase resulted in the deposition of a sheet of stiff sandy tills and terminal moraines. Meltwater was at least partially evacuated through the till layer, resulting in the development of a rigid bed. During the later part of the Saalian glaciation, ice-stream inception can be related to the development of a glacial lake to the north and west of the study area. The presence of meltwater channels incised into the floors of glacial troughs is indicative of high subglacial water pressures, which may have played a role in the onset of ice streaming. We speculate that streaming ice flow in the later part of the Saalian glaciation caused the relatively early deglaciation, as recorded in the Amsterdam Terminal borehole. These results suggest that changing subglacial bed conditions through glacial cycles could have a strong impact on ice dynamics and require consideration in ice-sheet reconstructions.

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