Raised Gravel Beaches as Proxy Indicators of Past Sea-Ice and Wave Conditions, Lowther Island, Canadian Arctic Archipelago
Keywords: beach morphology, gravel beach, sea ice, climate history, Canadian Arctic
AbstractThis study investigates whether raised beach sequences preserved on emergent coasts of the central Canadian Arctic Archipelago contain a proxy record of past sea-ice conditions and wave intensity. We hypothesize that periods of reduced sea ice (increased open water) expose shorelines to more prolonged and higher wave energy, leading to better-developed beach ridges. Surveys of raised beach sequences on Lowther Island revealed the following patterns: a) high, wide, single- to multi-crested barriers backed by deep swales or lagoons characterize both the active and lowest relict shorelines; b) small, narrow, discontinuous ridges of poorly sorted gravel extend from 1.0 to 7.5 m asl, except from 4.5 to 5.0 m asl; c) ridge morphology is similar to the active and first relict ridges between 7.5 and 11 m asl; d) a near-featureless zone with minor terraces and ridges above 11 m extends to above 30 m asl. These distinct morphological and sedimentary units are interpreted as a function of wave climate and thus of summer sea-ice conditions. This model suggests periods of greater wave activity from the present day back about 500 14C years (530 cal BP; Unit A), during a short interval from 1750 to 1600 14C years BP (1750–1450 cal BP; Unit B′), and earlier from 2900 to 2300 14C years BP (3030–2340 cal BP; Unit C). Units B and D are interpreted as the result of more severe ice conditions with lower wave energy from 2300 to 500 14C years BP (2340–530 cal BP) and earlier from more than 5750 to 2900 14C years BP (6540–3030 cal BP). Discrepancies with previously published interpretations of regional sea-ice history may reflect the local nature of the beach proxy record, which implies occurrences of extensive open-water fetch east and west of Lowther Island but cannot be extrapolated to a regional scale. The beach record shows distinct variation through time and provides an alternative window on past summer ice extent in central Barrow Strait.