Pleistocene glaciations of northern Russia – a modern view



The size, age and dynamics of Pleistocene glaciers, especially ice sheets that periodically covered the northern seaboard of Eurasia, are crucial for understanding the evolution of arctic climates, sea-level changes, the biota and tectonism. General ideas on the glacial history of the vast areas of northern Russia between 48° and 148°E, beyond the limits of the Fennoscandian glaciation, have considerably changed during the last two decades. The change towards modern views may even be considered as a paradigm shift from the conventional wisdom of the previous half-century. The transformation of the main landmarks of late Quaternary glacial history started in the 1970s and accelerated after 1993 as a result of international collaboration in the Russian Arctic. A wealth of new sedimentological, geomorphic and stratigraphic data has recently accumulated for the sedimentary record of the last 200 ka. This information, together with data collected from native geological surveys, has been synthesized in the form of digital maps of ice limits based on key stratigraphic sites. The results have been published as contributions to the international programs QUEEN and APEX and also as parts of global compilations. These publications give general overviews of the Eurasian glacial history, but some important modern data are reported only in the Russian literature and therefore are hardly known to the international community. In this paper I will first consider the background material on the non-Scandinavian glaciations and then follow this with a review of the modern results obtained in the course of international cooperation. The outcome is inevitably influenced (or biased) by my long-term experience in studying the Pleistocene of northern Russia. I will not discuss here the extreme northeast of Siberia (western Beringia), as this is a distinct topic partly overviewed in recent publications.