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A late-Holocene record of loess deposition in ice-wedge polygons reflecting wind activity and ground moisture conditions, Bylot Island, eastern Canadian Arctic

Fortier, Daniel, Allard, Michel, Pivot, Frédérique
TheHolocene 2006 v.16 no.5 pp. 635-646
Bryophyta, Holocene epoch, air temperature, atmospheric circulation, ice, isotopes, loess, loess deposition, oxygen, permafrost, summer, tundra, wind, Arctic region, Greenland
On Bylot Island, a field of tundra polygons at the margin of a glacial outwash plain contains a well-preserved syngenetic permafrost sequence of ground ice and alternating loess and organic layers that was accumulated during the late Holocene. Periods of increased deposition of loess alternated with periods of growth of bryophytes during the last 3500 years. These shifts in soil accretion regime are interpreted in terms of significant shifts of the summer surface wind conditions and active layer moisture regime (Precipitation-Evaporation or P-E), in response to regional climatic variations and recurrent changes of atmospheric circulation. There was a high level of variability and large amplitude of the P-E regime and summer surface wind conditions on a decennial and secular timescale in general. However, according to the Greenland GISP2 bi-decennial oxygen isotopes data, there was a low variability and amplitude (by a few degrees centigrade or less) of the regional mean annual air temperature. From 2950 to 2750 cal. BP, the summer climate was warmer and had the strongest and most frequent northwesterly surface winds of the late Holocene. Shifts to a weaker northwesterly summer surface wind activity preceded the dryer episodes that occurred from 2750 to 2450 and around 1850 cal. BP. Major wetter episodes occurred from 2450 to 2350, around 2050, from 1750 to 1550, from 1350 to 1150 and from 550 to 250 cal. BP. There is no clear relationship between P-E or summer surface wind regimes and air temperatures. Shifts of late Holocene summer aeolian regime can probably be better explained by the recurrence of particular synoptic circulation types in response to changes in the position of the atmospheric eastern Canadian Polar Trough.