Dramatic global climate change in the Early Cretaceous suggests that numerous boreal cool events perturbed otherwise warm conditions. Abundant glendonites in Valanginian and Aptian strata are thought to be key markers of cold conditions; however, their use as climate indicators has been questioned. Therefore, a detailed study of glendonites in the context of host-rock geochemistry was conducted on Cretaceous strata exposed on Ellef Ringnes Island, Sverdrup Basin, Canadian High Arctic, to elucidate paleoenvironment controls on periodic glendonite occurrence throughout the Early Cretaceous. Two prominent glendonite zones were identified in Valanginian and Aptian strata. Data for carbon stable isotopes show δ13Ccarb values of –29.5‰ to –10.5‰, consistent with a carbon source from organic matter within the surrounding shale. Trace metal data suggest deposition occurred under an overall oxidizing water column in a setting with higher than average phosphorus and highly degraded organic matter. There is no variation in the geochemical parameters of the mudstones with or without glendonites. Glendonite-bearing zones are coincident, however, with regional evidence for brief periods of colder climate conditions within the otherwise warm Early Cretaceous. We conclude that while the overall conditions for glendonite formation were prevalent throughout the Cretaceous, it was the brief cold periods that provided the final range of stability for their preservation in discrete zones of Valanginian and Aptian strata. These results support the model of an overall warm Early Cretaceous climate being punctuate by several “cold snaps” of as-yet uncertain origin.