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Durham University

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Marine Geophysical and Geological Investigations of Late Quaternary Ice Sheet History and Sedimentation on the Greenland Continental Margin

A research project of the Department of Geography.


This research investigates the development of the Greenland continental margin during the Late Quaternary (Figure A).

A major control on margin development has been the successive growth and decay of the Greenland Ice Sheet across the continental shelf and the associated glacigenic sediment delivery. Work has focused in particular on determining the extent and timing of the Greenland Ice Sheet during the LGM in East and NE Greenland where sediment cores from submarine channel systems in the Greenland Basin and streamlined subglacial bedforms on the continental shelf (Figures. B and C) indicate more extensive glaciation than hitherto proposed. This research will be extended to the west Greenland continental margin in 2009. Cruise JR175 of the RRS James Clark Ross will investigate the Late Quaternary record of Jakobshavns Isbrae across the shelf and adjoining deep sea sediment fan using multibeam swath bathymetry, sub-bottom profiling and sediment coring (Figure A).

The research involves collaboration with colleagues at the universities of Cambridge, Loughborough and Colorado.

(A) Greenland and offshore bathymetry (after IBCAO Arctic bathymetry database - Jacobsson et al., 2000), and areas where Durham staff are currently involved in marine geological research.

(B) EM120 swath bathymetry shaded relief image of streamlined subglacial bedforms formed in sediment on the floor of Westwind Trough, NE Greenland. The bedforms record former streaming flow through this trough during the most recent glaciation of the shelf.

(C) EM120 swath bathymetry shaded relief image of a submarine channel system in 2000-3000m water depth in the Greenland Basin. Inset shows TOPAS parametric sub-bottom profiler record acoustically stratified overbank sediments and channel on the lower slope in about 2800m of water.

Publications Related to this Research

Evans, J. Ó Cofaigh, C. Dowdeswell, J.A. and Peter Wadhams, P. (in press). Marine geophysical evidence for former expansion and flow of the Greenland Ice Sheet across the northeast Greenland continental shelf. Journal of Quaternary Science.
Ó Cofaigh, C.
, Dowdeswell, J.A., Evans, J., Kenyon, N.H., Taylor, J., Mienert, J. & Wilken, M. (2004). Timing and significance of glacially-influenced mass-wasting in the submarine channels of the Greenland Basin. Marine Geology, 207, 39-54.


From the Department of Geography

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