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The role of meltwater in high-latitude trough-mouth fan development: the Disko Trough-Mouth Fan, West Greenland

Ó Cofaigh, Colm and Hogan, Kelly A. and Jennings, Anne E. and Callard, S. Louise and Dowdeswell, Julian A. and Noormets, Riko and Evans, Jeff (2018) 'The role of meltwater in high-latitude trough-mouth fan development: the Disko Trough-Mouth Fan, West Greenland.', Marine geology., 402 . pp. 17-32.


The Disko Trough-Mouth Fan (TMF) is a major submarine sediment fan located along the central west Greenland continental margin offshore of Disko Trough. The location of the TMF at the mouth of a prominent cross-shelf trough indicates that it is a product of repeated glacigenic sediment delivery from former fast-flowing outlets of the Greenland Ice Sheet, including an ancestral Jakobshavn Isbrae, which expanded to the shelf edge during successive glacial cycles. This study focuses on the uppermost part of the fan stratigraphy and analyses multibeam swath bathymetry and sub-bottom profiler records, supplemented by a series of vibrocores up to 6 m in length. The swath bathymetry data show that the surface of the fan is prominently gullied and channelled with channels extending downslope from a series of shelf-edge incising gullies. Sub-bottom profiles from across- and down-fan show that the fan sediments are often acoustically stratified. Glacigenic-debris flows (GDFs) were recovered in sediment cores from the uppermost slope but they are absent in cores from elsewhere on the fan. Instead, glacimarine lithofacies in the Disko TMF are dominated by turbidites, hemipelagic sediments and IRD. The gullied and channelled surface of the fan implies erosion at the base of dense, sediment-laden, turbidity currents related to the delivery of meltwater and sediment from an ice sheet grounded at the shelf edge. Such meltwater-related fans have been documented previously on mid-latitude, glacier-influenced margins, but they have rarely been described from high-latitude settings. Although GDFs are often regarded as the building blocks of TMFs, the morphology and sedimentary architecture of the uppermost, Late Quaternary part of the Disko TMF indicates that it represents a clear example of a fan in which sediment delivery is strongly influenced by meltwater. This implies that there is a spectrum of TMFs on glaciated continental margins that reflects the relative dominance of meltwater processes vs. GDFs. It highlights the variability in fan morphology and mechanisms of sediment delivery on high-latitude TMFs and shows that the classic Polar North Atlantic model of GDF dominated fans is but one of a number of styles for such large-scale, high-latitude glacimarine sedimentary depocentres.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
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Publisher statement:© 2018 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Date accepted:04 February 2018
Date deposited:09 February 2018
Date of first online publication:06 February 2018
Date first made open access:06 February 2019

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