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Holocene palaeoceanography of the Northeast Greenland shelf

New publication by Teodora Pados-Dibattista, Christof Pearce, Henrieka Detlef, Jørgen Bendtsen, and Marit-Solveig Seidenkrantz


The Northeast Greenland shelf is highly sensitive to climate and ocean variability because it is swept by the East Greenland Current, which, through the western Fram Strait, forms the main pathway of export of sea ice and cold water masses from the Arctic Ocean into the North Atlantic Ocean. In order to reconstruct the variability of the East Greenland Current and general palaeoceanographic conditions in the area during the Holocene, we carried out benthic foraminiferal assemblage, stable isotope, and sedimentological analyses of a marine sediment core retrieved from the Northeast Greenland shelf (core DA17-NG-ST07-73G).
The results reveal significant variations in the water masses and thus in the strength of the East Greenland Current over the last ca. 9.4 kyr. Between 9.4 and 8.2 ka the water column off Northeast Greenland was highly stratified, with cold, seaice- loaded surface waters and a strong influx of warm Atlantic Water in the subsurface. At 8.4 ka a short-lived peak in terrestrial elements may be linked to an influx of icebergtransported sediments and thus to the so-called 8.2 ka event. Conditions similar to those of the Holocene Thermal Maximum prevailed from 8.2 to 6.2 ka, with a strong influence of the Return Atlantic Current and a weakened transport of Polar Water in the upper East Greenland Current. After 6.2 ka we recorded a return to a more stratified water column with sea-ice-loaded surface waters and still Atlantic-sourced subsurface waters. After 4.2 ka increased Polar Water at the surface of the East Greenland Current and a reduction in the Return Atlantic Water at subsurface levels signifies freshening and reduced stratification of the water column and (near) perennial sea-ice cover. The neoglaciation started at 3.2 ka at our location, characterized by a strengthened East Greenland Current. Cold subsurface-water conditions with possible seaice cover and minimum surface-water productivity persisted here throughout the last 3 kyr.