Abstract

A major problem for understanding the dynamics of ice streams has been a lack of precise data on ice streaming longevity and sediment transport efficacy. Here we present the first well-constrained data on sediment flux from a paleoice stream. This has been achieved by computing the volume of sediment deposited as debris flows on the fan located at the outlet of the Norwegian Channel ice stream, and converting to a flux measurement by accounting for the duration of streaming in this episode (between 20 and 19 ka during the last glacial stage). In this period the ice stream delivered an average 1.1 Gt of sediment per year, equivalent to 8000 m3yr−1 per meter width of ice stream front. The calculated flux is an order of magnitude higher than most previous estimates for other paleoice streams and is comparable to the present sediment flux from the world's largest rivers. The short period of debris-flow deposition suggests that the Norwegian Channel ice stream underwent rapid on-off switching, with punctuated iceberg delivery to the North Atlantic as a consequence.

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