Climate-driven thaw of permafrost preserved glacial landscapes, northwestern Canada




Kokelj, Steven V.
Lantz, Trevor C.
Tunnicliffe, Jon
Segal, Rebecca
Lacelle, Denis

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Ice-marginal glaciated landscapes demarcate former boundaries of the continental ice sheets. Throughout circumpolar regions, permafrost has preserved relict ground ice and glacigenic sediments, delaying the sequence of postglacial landscape change that transformed temperate environments millennia earlier. Here we show that within 7 x 10(6) km(2) of glaciated permafrost terrain, extensive landscapes remain poised for major climate-driven change. Across northwestern Canada, 60-100-km-wide concentric swaths of thaw slump-affected terrain delineate the maximum and recessional positions of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. These landscapes comprise similar to 17% of continuous permafrost terrain in a 1.27 x 10(6) km(2) study area, indicating widespread preservation of late Pleistocene ground ice. These thaw slump, relict ground ice, and glacigenic terrain associations are also evident at the circumpolar scale. Recent intensification of thaw slumping across northwestern Canada has mobilized primary glacial sediments, triggering a cascade of fluvial, lacustrine, and coastal effects. These geologically significant processes, highlighted by the spatial distribution of thaw slumps and patterns of fluvial sediment mobilization, signal the climate-driven renewal of deglaciation and postglacial permafrost landscape evolution.




Kokelj, S.V.; Lantz, T.C.; Tunnicliffe, J.; Segal, R.; & Lacelle, D. (2017). Climate-driven thaw of permafrost preserved glacial landscapes, northwestern Canada. Geology, 45(4), 371-374.