The micromorphology of glaciolacustrine varve sediments and their use for reconstructing palaeoglaciological and palaeoenvironmental change

Palmer, A.P.; Bendle, J.M.; MacLeod, A.; Rose, J.; Thorndycraft, V.R.. 2019 The micromorphology of glaciolacustrine varve sediments and their use for reconstructing palaeoglaciological and palaeoenvironmental change. Quaternary Science Reviews, 226, 105964.

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Former glaciolacustrine systems are an important archive of palaeoglaciological, palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic change. The annually laminated (varved) sediments that, under certain conditions, accumulate in former glacial lakes, offer a rare opportunity to reconstruct such changes (e.g. glacier advance and retreat cycles, glacier ablation trends, permafrost melt, nival events) at annual or even sub-annual temporal resolution. Data of this kind are desirable for their ability to guide and test numerical model simulations of glacier dynamics and palaeoclimatic change that occur over rapid time intervals, with implications for predicting future glacier response to climatic change, or the effects of weather and climate events on lake sedimentation. The most valuable records preserved in glaciolacustrine systems are continuous varved sequences formed in the distal parts of glacial lakes, where microscale lamination structures can accumulate relatively undisturbed. Technological advances, in the last few decades, have enabled improved characterisation of glaciolacustrine varve microfacies and the precise measurement of varve thickness at the micrometre scale. However, unlike in cognate fields (e.g. soil science), protocols for the robust and consistent description and interpretation of glaciolacustrine varve sediments are lacking. To fill this gap, and to provide a resource for future studies of glaciolacustrine varved sediments, this paper reviews the processes of sedimentation in glacial lake basins, and presents the defining microfacies characteristics of glacial varves using a descriptive protocol that uses consistent examination of grain size, sorting, structure, nature of contacts, development of plasmic fabrics and features such as dropgrains and intraclasts within individual laminations. These lamination types are then combined into lamination sets, whose structures can be interpreted as glaciolacustrine varves. Within this framework, we define five principal assemblages of glaciolacustrine varve microfacies which, if clearly identified in palaeoglaciolacustrine settings, enable more detailed palaeoenvironmental interpretations to be made. Finally, we discuss the utility and complexities of reconstructing the evolution of former glacial lake systems using varve microfacies and thickness datasets.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 02773791
Date made live: 31 Jan 2020 10:26 +0 (UTC)

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