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Morphological evidence for marine ice stream shutdown, central Barents Sea

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Abstract

Marine-based ice streams are responsible for a significant proportion of the ice mass loss from the present-day Greenland Ice Sheet, East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) and West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) but the processes controlling their initiation, evolution and shutdown remain elusive, hindering our understanding of how existing ice masses will respond to predicted future warming. The exposed beds of palaeo-ice streams offer a unique opportunity to study subglacial processes, which are largely inaccessible in contemporary settings. We use high resolution multibeam swath bathymetry data from the Barents Sea to map the geomorphology of a palaeo-ice stream bed, located in Olgastretet (Olga Trough), approximately 75 km southeast of Kong Karls Land and 200 km east of central Svalbard. This reveals evidence for shut down of a marine-based ice stream, followed by a phase of passive retreat or lift-off of the ice stream facilitating preservation of crevasse-squeeze ridges (CSRs). Subsequently, active retreat of the ice margin was re-established and is marked by recessional moraine ridges located upstream of the CSRs. Previously, CSRs have been mainly associated with surging land-terminating ice margins, however our work adds to recent observations of CSRs on the beds of marine-based ice streams, implying that they may be more common than previously thought. It also indicates that marine-based ice streams may switch on- and off in a surge-like manner which has important implications for our understanding of ice stream life cycles and the modelling of ice sheets.

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Kurjanski, B., Rea, B. R., Spagnolo, M., Winsborrow, M., Cornwell, D. G., Andreassen, K., & Howell, J. (2019). Morphological evidence for marine ice stream shutdown, central Barents Sea. Marine Geology, 414, 64–76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2019.05.001

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