Quaternary Science Reviews, 2009, Vol.28(27), pp.3401-3413
This study describes the origin and age of a body of massive ground ice exposed in the headwall of a thaw slump in the Red Creek valley, central Yukon, Canada. The site is located beyond the limits of Pleistocene glaciation in central Yukon and within the southern limit of the modern continuous permafrost zone. The origin of the massive ground ice, which is preserved under a fine-grained diamicton containing thin layers of tephra, was determined through ice petrography, stable O-H isotope composition of the ice, and gas composition of occluded air entrapped in the ice. The age of the massive ground ice was established by identifying the overlying tephra and radiocarbon dating of a “muck” deposit preserved within the ice. Collectively, the results indicate that the massive ground ice formed by snow densification with limited melting-refreezing and is interpreted as being a buried perennial snowbank. The muck deposit within the ice, which yielded an age of 30,720 ± 340 C a BP, and the Dawson tephra (25,300 C a BP) overlying the perennial snowbank, indicates that the snowbank accumulated at roughly the transition between marine isotope stages 3 and 2. Dry climatic conditions at this time and possibly high winds enabled the snowbank to accumulate in the absence of extensive local valley glaciation as occurred in the mountains to the south. In addition to documenting the persistence of relict permafrost and ground ice to warming climate in regions where they are predicted to disappear by numerical models, this study presents evidence of an isotopic biosignature preserved in a body of massive ground ice.
Sciences (General) ; Geology
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