3D seismic evidence of buried iceberg ploughmarks from the mid-Norwegian continental margin reveals largely persistent North Atlantic Current through the Quaternary.

06 Jun 2018

Over 7500 buried linear and curvilinear depressions interpreted as iceberg ploughmarks were identified within the Quaternary Naust Formation from an extensive three-dimensional seismic dataset that covers ~ 40,000 km2 of the mid-Norwegian continental margin. The morphology and net orientation of ploughmarks were mapped and analysed. These features are up to 28 km long, 700 m wide and are incised up to 31 m deep. On average, ploughmarks are incised 5 m deep, with median width of 185 m and median lengths ranging from 1.2 to 2.7 km for individual palaeo-surfaces. Width to depth ratio ranges from 8:1 to 400:1 and is on average 36:1. The presence of ploughmarks buried deeply within some palaeo-slope surfaces implies the occasional presence of very large icebergs since the middle Quaternary, suggesting that thick ice-sheet margins with fast-flowing ice streams were present in order to calve icebergs of such dimensions into the Norwegian Sea. The wide geographical distribution of ploughmarks suggests unrestricted iceberg drift and an open Norwegian Sea during the periods of iceberg calving since the early Quaternary. Ploughmark trajectory analysis demonstrates that the ocean current circulation, now dominated by the northeasterly flowing Norwegian Atlantic Current (NwAC), has largely persisted throughout the Quaternary. Despite the overall strikingly consistent pattern of iceberg drift, ploughmark mapping also shows evidence for short-lived NwAC reductions possibly related to major phases of iceberg discharge and/or meltwater pulses from the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet during the middle and late Quaternary.