The geomorphic imprint of glacier surges into open-marine waters: Examples from eastern Svalbard

06 Oct 2017

Seafloor morphology beyond nine tidewater glaciers terminating in open-marine settings in eastern Svalbard has been investigated using multibeam swath-bathymetry. Historical information on tidewater glacier fluctuations over the past century or so shows that the seafloor offshore has been exposed only recently. Most glaciers have been observed to surge or have looped surface moraines indicating past surges. During these ice advances and subsequent retreat, a well-preserved submarine landform assemblage has been produced. (a) Subglacial landforms include: overridden moraine ridges, mega-scale glacial lineations (MSGLs), other streamlined lineations, elongate drumlins and medial moraines, small ridges forming a complex boxwork or rhombohedral pattern, and meltwater-related eskers and channels. (b) Ice-marginal landforms include: large terminal moraines with debris flow lobes on their outer flanks and indentations on their inner sides, small transverse retreat moraines, and crater-like kettle holes. (c) Glacimarine features include: iceberg ploughmarks and an otherwise relatively smooth sedimentary seafloor produced by fine-grained debris rain-out. A schematic plan-view landform assemblage model for tidewater glaciers advancing into open-marine settings is developed. Arcuate terminal moraines marking the ice-advance limit provide a distinctive component. Submarine basin(s) exposed inside these moraine ridges when ice retreats contain suites of individual landforms, produced subglacially and ice-marginally, with a consistent order of timing of deposition and stratigraphic superposition. The new schematic model is compared with earlier models based on submarine landforms associated with surges in the more topographically constrained setting of Spitsbergen fjords. Differences include: (i) the overall arcuate shape of the open-marine assemblage; (ii) the indented ice-proximal sides of terminal moraine ridges; (iii) the fan-shaped pattern of streamlined lineations; (iv) crater-like kettle holes at the inner lateral margins of many submarine basins; (v) prominent systems of eskers and channels. Modern glaciological analogues from ongoing surges of ice caps in eastern Svalbard and Severnaya Zemlya provide contemporary observations of ice advance into open-marine settings, including heavily crevassed ice lobes with finger-like termini.