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Micromorphological characteristics of glacimarine sediments : implications for distinguishing genetic processes of massive diamicts.

Kilfeather, A. A. and O'Cofaigh, C. and Dowdeswell, J. A. and van der Meer, J. J. M. and Evans, D. J. A. (2010) 'Micromorphological characteristics of glacimarine sediments : implications for distinguishing genetic processes of massive diamicts.', Geo-marine letters., 30 (2). pp. 77-97.


Glacimarine diamicts are produced by diverse processes, and genetic differentiation is often problematic using macro-sedimentological criteria alone. Micromorphology offers a potentially helpful tool in such investigations. Macroscopically massive diamict samples of known glacimarine origin, from the Polar North Atlantic, Antarctica and north Irish Sea, were prepared for micromorphological analysis to (1) identify microstructures unique to different modes of sedimentation and (2) interpret genetic processes from those structures. The samples comprised examples of debris-flow, iceberg-turbate and suspension settling deposits from late Quaternary glacier influenced marine environments: tidewater glacier, sub- or pro-ice shelf and continental slopes in front of ice stream termini. Results show two significant features of debrisflow sediments: a bimodal grain fabric of near-horizontal and -vertical grains, and laminated clay and silt coatings on sand and pebble grains. Coatings are best developed in sediments with finer grain-size distributions and in debris flow sediments which have had relatively long run-out distances on trough-mouth fans, suggesting continuous rotation of grains in a buoyant, turbulent aqueous environment. This is significant because it precludes debris-flow delivery by plug flow. The micromorphology of iceberg turbate has not been described previously. It contains structures similar to those described in tills, so that unambiguous identification of these sediments seems unlikely based on micromorphological criteria alone. Suspension sediments range from fine-grained massive diamicts containing microfossils to more heterogeneous coarser sediments characterised by abrupt textural variations, from ice-distal and ice-proximal glacimarine environments respectively. The ice-proximal sediments contain fine vertical lineations marking the trajectories of dropstones through wet matrix. These dropstone tracks have not been reported in previous studies.

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Date of first online publication:April 2010
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