Glacial contourites on the Antarctic Peninsula margin: insight for palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic conditions
Renata G. Lucchi, Michele Rebesco, 2007. "Glacial contourites on the Antarctic Peninsula margin: insight for palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic conditions", Economic and Palaeoceanographic Significance of Contourite Deposits, A. R. Viana, M. Rebesco
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Deep-sea finely laminated and barren glacial sediments occur in the sediment drift field offshore the Pacific margin of the Antarctic Peninsula where a weak contour current flows at present to the SW. Atypical sedimentary facies were related to the coexistence and interaction of different sedimentary processes. Three 'end-members' of radiograph facies were defined to represent the sedimentary sequences controlled by a dominant process, as follows. (1) Direct influence of turbidity currents on sedimentation is observed in the area surrounding the Alexander Channel system with silty layers interbedded with laminated mud free of ice-rafted debris (IRD). (2) Distal meltwater turbid flows dominate the more proximal area of the top plateau with structureless and coarser-grained sediments containing IRD. (3) Along the crest of the drift, persistent weak bottom currents control the deposition of fine-grained sediments conveyed into the system through other processes. These laminated sediments contain IRD and are, atypically, not bioturbated, because of unusual, climatically related, environmental conditions of suppressed primary productivity and oxygen-reduced deep waters. These glacial contourites were observed on most of the Antarctic margin with the exception of the areas in which polynyas were maintained during the glacial stages. Glacial contourites can be used as a proxy to define temporal and spatial extension of the Antarctic sea-ice.
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There has lately been a growth in the number and level of studies of contourite deposits. Most recent studies of contourites have two major lines of interest. One, propelled by the oil industry's continuous move into increasingly deep waters, concerns their economic significance. The other involves the stratigraphic/palaeoceanographic record of ocean circulation changes imprinted on contourite deposits that can be a key to understanding better the climate-ocean connection. The application of many different theoretical, experimental and empirical resources provided by geophysics, sedimentology, geochemistry, petrology, scale modeling and field geology are used in the 16 papers of this volume, proposing answers to those two main aspects. The papers are subdivided into two major categories (economic interest and stratigraphic/palaeoceanographic significance), with case studies ranging from well-documented drifts to new examples of modern and fossil series, involving a large diversity of geographic and physiographic scenarios worldwide.