Abstract

During the last glacial maximum of east-central Ellesmere Island, trunk glaciers inundated the landscape, entering the Smith Sound Ice Stream. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dates on individual shell fragments in till indicate that the ice advanced after 19 ka BP. The geomorphic and sedimentary signatures left by the trunk glaciers indicate that the glaciers were polythermal. The configuration and chronology of this ice is relevant to the reconstruction of ice core records from northwestern Greenland, the history of iceberg rafting of clastic sediments to northern Baffin Bay, the reopening of the seaway between the Arctic Ocean and Baffin Bay, and the regional variability of arctic paleoenvironments. Deglaciation began with the separation of Ellesmere Island and Greenland ice at fiord mouths ∼8–8.5 ka BP. Ice reached fiord heads between 6.5 and 4.4 ka BP. Trunk glacier retreat from the fiords of east-central Ellesmere Island occurred up to 3000 years later than in west coast fiords. This later retreat was favoured by (1) impoundment by the Smith Sound Ice Stream in Kane Basin until ∼8.5 ka BP, which moderated the impact of high summer melt recorded in nearby ice cores between ∼11.5 and 8.5 ka BP; (2) the shallow bathymetry and narrowness (<2 km) of the east coast fiords, which lowered calving rates following separation of Innuitian and Greenland ice; and (3) the likelihood of higher precipitation along east Ellesmere Island. Glaciers throughout the field area readvanced during the late Holocene. The greater advance of coastal glaciers is attributed to their proximity to the North Water polynya in Baffin Bay.

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