Is ice-rafted sediment in a North Pole marine record evidence for perennial sea-ice cover?

L. B. Tremblay, G. A. Schmidt, S. Pfirman, R. Newton, P. DeRepentigny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Ice-rafted sediments of Eurasian and North American origin are found consistently in the upper part (13Ma BP to present) of the Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX) ocean core from the Lomonosov Ridge, near the North Pole (≈88° N). Based on modern sea-ice drift trajectories and speeds, this has been taken as evidence of the presence of a perennial sea-ice cover in the Arctic Ocean from the middle Miocene onwards (Krylov et al. 2008 Paleoceanography 23, PA1S06. (doi:10.1029/2007PA001497); Darby 2008 Paleoceanography 23, PA1S07. (doi:10.1029/2007PA 001479)). However, other high latitude land and marine records indicate a long-term trend towards cooling broken by periods of extensive warming suggestive of a seasonally ice-free Arctic between the Miocene and the present (Polyak et al. 2010 Quaternary Science Reviews 29, 1757-1778. (doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.02.010)). We use a coupled sea-ice slab-ocean model including sediment transport tracers to map the spatial distribution of icerafted deposits in the Arctic Ocean. We use 6 hourly wind forcing and surface heat fluxes for two different climates: one with a perennial sea-ice cover similar to that of the present day and one with seasonally ice-free conditions, similar to that simulated in future projections. Model results confirm that in the present-day climate, sea ice takesmore than 1 year to transport sediment from all its peripheral seas to the North Pole. However, in a warmer climate, sea-ice speeds are significantly faster (for the same wind forcing) and can deposit sediments of Laptev, East Siberian and perhaps also Beaufort Sea origin at the North Pole. This is primarily because of the fact that sea-ice interactions are much weaker with a thinner ice cover and there is less resistance to drift. We conclude that the presence of ice-rafted sediment of Eurasian and North American origin at the North Pole does not imply a perennial sea-ice cover in the Arctic Ocean, reconciling the ACEX ocean core data with other land and marine records.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20140168
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2052
StatePublished - Oct 13 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Arctic
  • Palaeoclimate
  • Sea ice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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