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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Journal of Sedimentary Research (SEPM)


Journal of Sedimentary Research, Section A: Sedimentary Petrology and Processes
Vol. 67 (1997)No. 3. (May), Pages 536-549

Temperate Glacimarine Varves: An Example from Disenchantment Bay, Southern Alaska

Ellen A. Cowan (1), Jinkui Cai (2), Ross D. Powell (2), Jenifer D. Clark (1), Jeffrey N. Pitcher (2)


The sediment record of Disenchantment Bay, Southern Alaska, a large marine calving embayment, contains distinctive annual deposits. Each year a glacimarine couplet forms with a clast-rich stratified to massive diamicton deposited in winter by intense iceberg rafting and a summer, meltwater deposit of thinly laminated mud and turbidite sand beds. Although iceberg rafting occurs throughout the year, coarse debris is deposited in high concentrations and forms diamicton only during the winter because of minimal fine sediment from meltwater discharges and a longer residence time of icebergs in the Bay due to winter fjord circulation and meteorological factors. When meltwater discharge commences in summer, laminated mud with dropstones is deposited. Spring and fall conditions are recorded a transitional phases between winter and summer by clast-poor diamictons.

Average sediment accumulation rates calculated from varve thicknesses range from 48 cm/yr, 3.4 km from Hubbard Glacier at the head of the Bay, to 14 cm/yr, 15 km away. Sediment accumulation rates estimated from 210Pb dating of core sediments are in the same range. Deposits from the 1986 Russell Fiord outburst flood are identified from anomalously high 210Pb activities in sediments indicating an alternative sediment source to Disenchantment Bay.

Glacimarine varves are a dating tool for the barren proximal sediments commonly deposited near calving glacier termini. They yield paleoclimatic information because they are a product of both glacial ice in the sea and laminated sediments deposited from significant melt-water discharge found in a temperate to subpolar climate.

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