Abstract

The late Weichselian and Holocene raised-beach sequences on northwestern Spitsbergen provide a detailed record of sea-level oscillations during the last deglacial hemicycle. Initial emergence commenced at ≥13 ka, coincident with local deglaciation, and until 10.5 ka was characterized by a relative slow rate of emergence (1.5 to 5 m/ka) interrupted by minor stillstands or transgressions associated with possible glacier re-advances. The orientation of paleo-spits and the paucity of whale remains at the late Weichselian marinelimit indicate that the prevailing westerly fetch was dampened by a semi-permanent sea-ice cover, allowing long shore-drift to predominate. A period of accelerated emergence (15 to 30 m/ka) between 10.5 and 9 ka is correlative with rapid deglaciation of fiords. The middle and late Holocene is characterized by two brief transgressions: one between 6.5 and 5.0 ka that did not exceed 7 m asl and a present, probable slow rise in sea level that commenced 2 to 1 ka.

The strandline tilts in northwestern Spitsbergen, and the pattern and rate of emergence on Svalbard indicate that the maximum glacier loads during the late Weichselian were centered on Nordaustlandet, and on the central and eastern part of the archipelago. Northwestern and southwestern Spitsbergen were marginal to glacial loading and were deglaciated early (≥13 ka) which is presently incompatible with maximum ice sheet extent and the timing and position of deglacial margins recently reconstructed for the Barents Sea and Svalbard. Mountain ranges and large fiords probably confined major outlet glaciers to the central part of the archipelago, preventing inundation of much of western Spitsbergen by an inferred large ice sheet based in eastern Svalbard and the Barents Sea.

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