Abstract

The presence of turbid, sediment-rich fast ice in the Arctic is a major factor affecting transport of fine-grained sediment. Turbid ice was found to be present in a zone 10 to 20 km wide along the coast of the Beaufort Sea. Sediment concentrations observed in cores taken in seasonal fast ice ranged from 3 to more than 1,600 g/m 3 . Finely disseminated silt and clay-sized particles dominated, discoloring the upper segments of the cores in a layer up to 1 m thick. In almost all of the cores the upper-most 10 cm of ice was relatively less turbid, and the relief at the base of the turbid layer was 10 to 20 cm over distances of 1 to 2 m. Observers have documented the widespread, sporadic occurrence of sediment-rich fast ice in both the Beaufort and Bering Seas. The known sources and transport relations of suspended sediment did not explain this distribution of turbid ice. The occurrence of sediment in only the upper part of the seasonal fast ice indicates that sediment-rich ice forms early during ice growth. The most likely mechanism for the formation of sediment-laden ice and preferential sorting of fine sediments requires resuspension of nearshore bottom sediment during storms, accompanied by formation of frazil ice and subsequent lateral advection before the fast ice is stabilized. We estimate that the sediment incorporated in the Beaufort ice canopy formed a significant proportion of the seasonal influx of terrigenous fine-grained sediment. The dominance of fine-grained sediment suggests that in the Arctic and sub-Arctic these size fractions may be ice rafted in greater volumes than the coarse fraction of traditionally recognized ice-rafted sediment. The incorporation and transport mechanism may be a significant factor in the transport of fine-grained sediments in the Arctic basin.

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