Abstract

Sea otter remains found in deposits of two marine transgressions (Bigbendian and Fishcreekian) of the Alaskan Arctic Coastal Plain which occurred between 2.4 and 3 Ma suggest that during these two events the southern limit of seasonal sea ice was at least 1600 km farther north than at present in Alaskan waters. Perennial sea ice must have been severely restricted or absent, and winters were warmer than at present during these two sea-level highstands. Paleomagnetic, faunal, and palynological data indicate that the later transgression (Fishcreekian) occurred during the early part of the Matuyama Reversed-Polarity Chron. Amino acid diagenesis in fossil mollusks suggests that since the later transgression the effective diagenetic temperature (EDT) in the deposits has been about −16 °C, which is about 7 °C colder than modern values and slightly colder than the EDT calculated for the past 125 ka. Such a low EDT suggests that permafrost and perennial sea ice have been present nearly continuously since this transgression. Permafrost probably was absent, however, during the earlier (Bigbendian) transgression. Permafrost and extensive perennial sea ice may have been initiated during the late stages of climatic cooling that spanned the Gauss Normal-Matuyama Reversed-Polarity Chron boundary and led into the first major late Cenozoic glaciation of the Northern Hemisphere.

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