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The western ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet is darker than the surrounding ice, because a higher amount of fine-grained particles, known as a cryoconite, occur. To date, biotic cryoconite components have gained a lot of attention, in contrast with mineral components, which have been studied to a limited extent. In this study, fine-grained quartz grains from the cryoconite holes of the Russell Glacier, southwest Greenland are, therefore, examined. Authors use scanning electron microscope to elucidate shape, surface character and origin of these mineral quartz particles. Triangular-faceted, sharp-edged grains dominate in most of the investigated samples, and originate from local sources, where grain-to-grain contact in the ice prevail. Grains with smooth corners and edges result from chemical weathering in meltwater of alkaline pH, in which quartz solubility significantly increases. However, part of these rounded grains is due to mechanical abrasion by wind action. Postsedimentary frost action is visible through grains entirely or partially covered by scaly-grained encrustation. Local processes and sources are largely responsible for aforementioned grain outlines. However, few grains with bulbous silica precipitation argue for a dry and warm climate, and distant, out-of-Greenland origin.
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since 1961 BALTICA Volume 30 Number 2 December 2017: 63–73
Fine-grained quartz from cryoconite holes of the Russell Glacier, southwest Greenland –
a scanning electron microscopy study
Edyta Kalińska-Nartiša, Kristaps Lamsters, Jānis Karušs, Māris Krievāns, Agnis Rečs,
Raimonds Meija
Kalińska-Nartiša, E., Lamsters, K., Karušs, J., Krievāns, M., Rečs, A., Meija, R., 2017. Fine-grained quartz from cryo-
conite holes of the Russell Glacier, southwest Greenland – a scanning electron microscopy study. Baltica, 2017, Vol. 30
(2), 63–73. Vilnius. ISSN 0067-3064.
Manuscript submitted 5 April 2017/ Accepted 20 November 2017 / Published online 11 December 2017
© Baltica 2017
Abstract The western ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet is darker than the surrounding ice, because a high-
er amount of ne-grained particles, known as a cryoconite, occur. To date, biotic cryoconite components have
gained a lot of attention, in contrast with mineral components, which have been studied to a limited extent. In
this study, ne-grained quartz grains from the cryoconite holes of the Russell Glacier, southwest Greenland are,
therefore, examined. Authors use scanning electron microscope to elucidate shape, surface character and origin of
these mineral quartz particles. Triangular-faceted, sharp-edged grains dominate in most of the investigated sam-
ples, and originate from local sources, where grain-to-grain contact in the ice prevail. Grains with smooth corners
and edges result from chemical weathering in meltwater of alkaline pH, in which quartz solubility signicantly
increases. However, part of these rounded grains is due to mechanical abrasion by wind action. Postsedimentary
frost action is visible through grains entirely or partially covered by scaly-grained encrustation. Local processes
and sources are largely responsible for aforementioned grain outlines. However, few grains with bulbous silica
precipitation argue for a dry and warm climate, and distant, out-of-Greenland origin.
Keywordsglacialperiglacialweatheredaeolianquartz grainSEM
Edyta Kalińska-Nartiša (, SunGIS SIA, Pruuni, Rencēni Parish, Burtnieki region, LV-
4232, Latvia; University of Tartu, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, Department of Geology, Ravila 14A, EE-
50411 Tartu, Estonia; Kristaps Lamsters (, University of Latvia, Faculty of Geography
and Earth Sciences, Jelgavas street 1, LV-1004, Riga, Latvia; Jānis Karušs (, University of Latvia,
Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences, Jelgavas street 1, LV-1004, Riga, Latvia; Māris Krievāns (maris.krievans@, University of Latvia, Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences, Jelgavas street 1, LV-1004, Riga, Latvia;
Agnis Rečs (, University of Latvia, Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences, Jelgavas street 1,
LV-1004, Riga, Latvia; Raimonds Meija (, University of Latvia, Institute of Chemical Physics,
Jelgavas street 1, LV-1004, Riga, Latvia
Cryoconite holes occur upon glacier surfaces
worldwide and result from melting of biota and or-
ganic-mineral aggregates (Wharton et al. 1985) to a
depth of thermal equilibrium (McIntyre 1984). These
near-spherical forms contain dark coloured material
called cryoconite (Takeuchi et al. 2000), which was
rst described by Nordenskiöld (1872). This mate-
rial consist of (1) variable microbial community be-
ing a valuable biomarkers (Hodson et al. 2010), (2)
black carbon being a product of incomplete combus-
tion of fossils and biofuels (Cook et al. 2015), and
(3) ne-grained mineral material having a source ei-
ther in wind action or ice melting (Wientjes et al.
2011). Whereas biotic cryoconite components have
been studied in detail (Cook et al. 2015; Hodson et
al. 2010; Kaczmarek et al., 2016; Uetake et al. 2010),
studies about abiotic components are rather limited
and focus on, for instance, their physical and minera-
logical properties (Nagatsuka et al. 2014; Tedesco
et al. 2013). In this study, we analyse the shape and
character of surface of the ne-grained mineral par-
ticles, which gained, so far, a limited attention (see
Wientjes et al. 2011).
The ne-grained mineral component can be sim-
ply determined as a broken sand (Wright 2007),
and may be produced under numerous conditions
as both tropical (Pye 1983) and arid climate weath-
ering (Smith et al. 1987), aeolian abrasion (Bullard
et al. 2004; Whalley et al. 1987) or uvial processes
(Wright, Smith 1993). Traditionally, glacial grind-
ing combined with wind action produce a large silt
volume, and, therefore, these processes are favoured
as an explanation for, for example, loess formation
(Smalley 1995, 1990). However, glacial abrasion it-
self is also often responsible for a nal production of
silt-sized sediments (Langroudi et al. 2014). In the
cold and arid areas, particularly important are glacial
outwash oodplains that provide a silt-dominated de-
posit and dust source (Bullard, Austin 2011; Sugden
et al. 2009). For example, up to 0.7 m thick silt wind-
blown deposits occur at higher altitudes of the broad
valley oodplains in Greenland (Dijkmans, Törnqvist
1991; Willemse et al. 2003). Because wind is impor-
tant agent in sediment transport within extramarginal
zones to glaciers (Hobbs 1942), ne-grained sediment
may appear on the glacier surface (Marra et al. 2017),
subsequently absorbing sunlight, melting in the ice,
and nally producing a hole.
Natural silt is nearly always composed of quartz
(Kumar et al. 2006), except of volcanic areas, where
quartz is in a decient (Noda 2005). In this study,
quartz is abundant (Hodson et al. 2010), and thus we
have a closer look at properties of ne-grained quartz
material that originates from the cryoconite holes of
the Russell Glacier, south west Greenland (Figs. 1, 2).
This western ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet
is darker than the surrounding ice (Fig. 2A-B), likely
due to a higher amount of ne-grained particles (Bøg-
gild et al. 2010). Especially during the last years, in-
creased snow impurity accelerates Greenland surface
melt (Dumont et al. 2014). Compared to other locali-
ties of west Greenland, the darker surface of Russell
Glacier contains a higher both biovolume and inor-
Fig. 1. Location of the study area and sampling points.
Fig. 2. A – a general view of study area with visible cryoconite on ice (darker zones), B – area with a lot of cryoconite
holes in foreground and concentrated cryoconite sediments in supraglacial lake. C – close-up view of cryoconite hole with
cryoconite granules at the bottom, D – group of cryoconite holes.
ganic quartz matter (Uetake et al. 2010). Quartz, in
turn, is an excellent tool, which records transporta-
tion and post-depositional processes in its shape and
on its surface (Vos et al. 2014). Combined all these
features, the aim of this study is to elucidate the ori-
gin and characteristics of quartz particles from the
cryoconite holes. We analyse the shapes, character of
surfaces and microtextures of mineral quartz particles
in scanning electron microscope (SEM).
Our study area is located in southwest Greenland,
where the Greenland ice sheet is drained by the Rus-
sell and the Isunnguata Sermia outlet glaciers (Fig.
1). The melting of the Russell glacier is a source
for proglacial streams owing into the 1–2 km wide
Sandugtdalen valley-sandur. The Sandugtdalen is
a major source area for wind-transported dust, which
forms small-scale aeolian features along the val-
ley and distal part of sandur plain (Engels, Helmens
2010), and occurs atop the ice margin as well. The
deposition of silt and sand sediments along sandur is
facilitated by periodical Jökulhlaups (Česnulevičius,
Šeirienė 2009; Russell 2007, 1989), with the lat-
est ones occurred in 2007 and 2008 (Russell et al.
Marginal moraines are also the sources for aeolian
silt, which even has deposited nearby in the small de-
pressions and terrace-like forms of the moraine ridges
themselves. As the airborne silt can remain in aerial
suspension for a long time and can be transported over
considerable distances (Clarhäll 2011), it is likely that
some ne-grained particles could have been blown
from distant localities in Northern Hemisphere. For
example, black carbon particles originating from the
forest res in North America were found in the Arctic
(Stohl et al. 2006).
The main bedrock constituent of the area near
the Russell glacier is the Archaean ortho-gneisses,
which construct the southern part of the Nagsugto-
qidian Orogen (Van Gool et al. 2002). Gneisses are
reworked in the Palaeoproterozoic era before 1.9-1.8
Ma (Van Gool et al. 2002) and later affected by glacial
erosion, postglacial faulting and deposition of glacial
and, in places, aeolian sediments. Thin cover of silty
aeolian deposits is common in the uphill areas, and as
suggested by Willemse et al. (2003), favourable con-
ditions for continuous aeolian deposition have been
prevailed at least since ca. 4,750 years BP with inux
rates between 0.075 and 0.60 kg/m2/year.
In the investigated area, dry sub-arctic climate
prevails with mean annual temperature of -5.1ºC
and mean annual precipitation of 173 mm (Cappelen
2012). The predominant wind direction is from east
and southeast (Van den Broeke, Gallée 1996) with
a mean speed at 2 m above ground level of 3.6 m/s
(years 1985–99; Cappelen et al. 2001) with the high-
est values > 10m/s in December and January (Bull-
ard, Austin 2011). However, Dijkmans and Törnqvist
(1991) reported that 25% of winds with this speed oc-
cur in May and June.
Seven samples (K1B, K2B, K3A, K4A, K5A, K5B
and K6B) of cryoconite material from six sampling
sites were collected from the surface of Russell Gla-
cier during eld expedition in July, 29, 2016 (Figs. 1,
2). First sampling site (K1B) was set 3 km from glacier
margin at 552 m a.s.l. and each successive sampling
site was set 30 m lower (see Table 1 for details). Be-
cause we have not found any cryoconite holes close to
glacier margin, the last sampling site was set approxi-
mately 500 m from the glacier margin.
The altitude and coordinates of each sampling
point were determined by using a GPS Magellan Pro-
mark 3. All measurements were performed in UTM
coordinate system, zone 22N, whereas the elevations
were calculated using the EGM 2008 geoid model.
The K5A and K5B sampling sites were located at the
same elevation, but 10 metres apart to test whether
grain type distribution is similar or different.
At each sampling point pH (+/- 0.01) for each hole
were measured by using Multiparameter meter WTW
2FD460. Before the beginning of measurements, the
device was calibrated using calibration solutions with
pH values of 7 and 4.01.
In laboratory, samples were dried at room-temper-
ature, and further, sediment particles were randomly
placed onto a carbon double-sided sticky tape on top
of SEM holder. Because sediment itself was silty, and
quantity was small, no extra separation (i.e. by siev-
ing) was performed prior analyses with SEM. Alto-
gether 736 quartz grains (between 100 and 115 grains
per sample) were examined by the Hitachi FE-SEM
S-4800 at the Institute of Chemical Physics, Univer-
sity of Latvia. Grains were classied into one of the
ve groups following a recommendation of Woronko
(2007). These are: (1) A type = fresh grains, with
all sharp edges and corners; (2) B type = grains en-
tirely covered and transformed by chemical weather-
ing; (3) C type = grain with scaly-grained cover; (4)
D type = grains with bulbous cover, and (5) E type =
cracked grains with at least 30% of the original grain
affected. Information about grain type was, addition-
ally, supplemented by a closer look at the grain sur-
face and edges to nd out the possible microtextures
(Mahaney 2002; Vos et al. 2014).
Two groups of quartz grains signicantly contrib-
ute in all studied cryoconite holes. In the rst group,
fresh (A-type) grains occur at between 14% and 43%
(Fig. 3; Table 1). Fresh, different size of conchoidal
features associated with (sub-)parallel and curved
steps and graded marks occur on grains surface (Fig.
4A-E). In the second group, weathered (B-type) grains
vary between 28% and 50% (Fig. 3). Their corners
and edges are rounded by smooth etch surfaces (Fig.
4F-G) and caverns and holes are present on their sur-
face (Fig. 4H). However, in part of the grains, edges
are bulbous with no traces of chemically-induced fea-
tures (Fig. 4I-J). This is especially relevant to the K6B
sample, in which most grains carry bulbous edges.
Fig. 3. Spatial distribution of ne quartz grain types from
cryoconites of the Russell Glacier, southwest Greenland.
Table 1. Types of quartz grains of silty fraction in the ma-
terial of the cryoconite holes of the Russell Glacier along
with a sample altitude and pH value for each hole.
Sample Altitude
(m a.s.l.) pH Types of quartz grains [%]
K1B 552 9.27 24 50 8 0 17
K2B 522 9.17 34 42 12 0 12
K3A 494 9.49 40 41 61 12
K4A 465 9.13 37 41 16 0 7
K5A 433 8.10 27 28 25 2 17
K5B 433 8.00 43 31 6 6 14
K6B 423 7.20 14 48 16 0 14
Fig. 4. SEM micrographs of quartz specimens of the investigated cryoconites: (A-B) A-type fresh grains; (C) details of
conchoidal feature; (D) subparallel steps; (E) surface with graded arcs (arrows); (F-G) B-type weathered grains; (H) de-
tails of grain edge with holes and caverns (arrow); (I-J) mechanically abraded bulbous edges; (K) surface of C-type grain
with scaly-grained encrustation; (L-M) E-type cracked grains (arrows show cracked surfaces); (N) D-type grain with
bulbous encrustation; (O) details of bulbous encrustation.
Contribution of grains with scaly-grained encrus-
tation (C-type) varies between 6–25% (Fig. 3). Ei-
ther surface of these grains is intensively weathered
and entirely encrusted, or weathering occurs only in
depressions and at the bottom of the negative micro-
forms (Fig. 4K). Cracked (E-type) grains contribute
between 7–18% (Fig. 3, 4L-M). Grains with bulbous
precipitation on their surface (D-type) are either ab-
sent or rare (1–2%), except of the K5B, where 6% of
D-type grains occur (Fig. 3, 4N-O).
In theory, one or a combination of aeolian proc-
esses, land-sliding from valley walls and supra-/eng-
lacial entrainment may provide sediment onto gla-
cier surface (Lancaster 2002; Macdonell, Fitzsimons
2008; McIntyre 1984). On the ablation zone, as in
this study, sediment itself remains a ne powder of
dust particles, contrary to the valley glaciers, where
the material forming cryoconite holes is often sand or
pebbles (Bøggild et al. 2010). Previous studies reveal
contradictory opinions regarding the origin of ne-
grained particles on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Either
these particles originate from local wind-transported
sources and past-time englacial dust outcropping in
the ablation zone (Nagatsuka et al. 2016; Wientjes
et al. 2011) and/or long-travelled dust from dis-
tant deserts (Lupker et al. 2010; Serno et al. 2015;
Svensson et al. 2000). Others also suggest that only
ne-grained minerals originate from long-distanced
sources, whereas coarser – from eroded local bedrock
(Tepe, Bau 2015). Our study does only partially an-
swer the question whether or not ne-grained parti-
cles originate from distant sources. However, we pre-
liminary assume that the investigated quartz particles
from the cryoconite holes rather carry a transportation
signal originating from numerous but local sources.
Additionally, testing material from two cryoconite
holes at the same elevation, but located 10 metres
apart (K5A and K5B), reveals signicant difference
in grain type distribution, meaning that holes are in-
dependent one another. Through grain observation in
SEM, we detect ve types of grains that record differ-
ent environmental signals. We discuss these signals
in the following sections.
Glacial grains
Results obtained from an observation of the ne-
grained quartz in the SEM, in which fresh (A-type)
and cracked (E-type) grains dominate, are consistent
with observations of Wientjes et al. (2011), who found
that cryoconite quartz in west Greenland reveals tri-
angular-faceted, sharp-edged outline (Fig. 4A-C).
Also Yallop et al. (2012) reported that angular min-
eral particles prevail in the cryoconite holes. Our re-
sults are also similar to other localities in the world.
For example, irregular mineral particles with sharp
edges in cryoconites from Svalbard were observed by
Edwards et al. (2010) and by Sullivan (1995), and in
the Tibetan Plateau by Dong et al. (2016a, 2016b).
Likewise, the ash particles taken from Icelandic holes
are dominantly characterized by blocky shape with
stepped features and clustered clasts (Dragosics et al.
2016). Moreover, angular fragments of quartz and
other mineral components were detected in the coars-
er-grained particles (> 62µm) in cryoconite deposits
of the Alps (Tomadin et al. 1996).
In newly produced grains, sharp edges, conchoidal
fractures, microsteps and fracture faces prevail (Jon-
czak et al. 2016), which may result from high-pres-
sure fracturing during glacial transport (Immonen et
al. 2014; Mahaney 2002; Vos et al. 2014) and local
origin combined with a recent deposition (Edwards
et al. 2010; Tomadin et al. 1996). Fresh-surfaced
grains also likely reect a severe climate conditions
(Sokołowski et al. 2009), which is visible, for ex-
ample, through the sample from the lowest altitude
(K6B), where the amount of the A-type grains is the
lowest, meaning that frost weathering is less intense
than in the inner part of the ice sheet. Our investigated
grains owe characteristic posed above, and, therefore,
greatly originate from local sources, where grain-to-
grain contact in the ice prevail as also concluded by
Wientjes et al. (2011). This statement may be addi-
tionally supported by a number of cracked (E-type)
grains, which result from crushing in glacial environ-
ment and frost weathering (Matsuoka 2001; Woronko
2016). Other studies, for example of rare earth ele-
ments, also show a local bedrock source in cryoconite
samples (Tepe, Bau 2015).
Chemical-induced grains
Not only sharp grains were observed in the investi-
gated cryoconite holes. Among some samples, nearly
50% of grains reveal abraded corners and edges and
smooth surface (Fig. 3). Shape of a quartz grain is sus-
ceptible to change either by chemical and mechanical
processes (Mazzullo 1986). During chemical solution
quartz crystal structure is easy etched on its corners
and edges (see details in Gautier et al. 2001 and ref-
erences therein). Fine-grained particles on a melting
ice surface are vulnerable to transport by meltwater
(Adhikary et al. 2000). Since geochemical properties
of meltwater are complex, and numerous solutes are
found in it (Sanna, Romeo 2016), quartz grains may
be affected by this transportation medium. Studies
show that quartz solubility signicantly increases in
alkaline conditions of pH 9.0 or higher (Dove, Rim-
stidt 1994), and at pH values lower than 3.5 (Brehm
et al. 2005). In our study, a general pH environment
measured in each cryoconite hole varies between 7.20
and 9.49 (Table 1), and is inuenced by the mineral
contents and active photosynthesis (Tranter et al.
2004). Comparing quartz grains in holes with water
of pH>9.0 and pH<9.0, our results indicate ca. 20%
more B-type (weathered) grains in holes with water
of a higher pH value (Fig. 5). This observation agrees
with a statement that the dissolution rate of quartz is
maximum above pH 9.0 (Brehm et al. 2005), but dis-
agrees with our results of the K6B sample. Although
the lowest value of pH (7.20) was measured in this
sample, almost half of investigated grains seem to
reveal rounded edges and corners. Alkaline condi-
tions do, certainly, not trigger grain rounding in this
case, and different agent is responsible for this (see
Mechanical-induced grains
Mechanical processes seem to play a smaller role
in ne-grain rounding (Woronko 2007). However a
fairly rapid and an efcient rounding of ne-grained
particles under suspension conditions is considered
by some studies (Foreman et al. 2007; Mazzullo et al.
1992; Mazzullo 1986; Werner, Merino 1997). Strong
winds (see Study area) with a potential of mechanical
rounding are a common feature in the Kangerlussuaq
area, where wind erosion is an important geomor-
phic agent (Gillies et al. 2009) that removes discrete
patches of ne-grained soil and further exposing the
bedrock (Heindel et al. 2017). Along with our previ-
ous research, number of aeolian-origin grains of sand
fraction occur in the sediments close to the ice margin
(Kalińska-Nartiša et al. 2017). Certainly, this wind
agent should be considered, and possibly part of our
investigated grains were also mechanically abraded.
For example, grains of the K6B sample are coarser
and reveal edge rounding and bulbous edges on the
most concave parts of the grains (Fig. 4I, J). These
features are principally attributed to aeolian history
(Costa et al. 2013; Mahaney 2002; Mahaney et al.
2014), thus give evidence for wind transportation.
Periglacial grains
In periglacial environment, quartz grains with
scaly-grained cover and very ne mineral particle (C-
type according to Woronko (2007) occur, and may
be detectable, for example, in glacial streams, which
milk colour is due to particles of suspended silica
inside (Dietzel 2005). It has been observed that soil
solution at specic horizons induces the formation of
silicates (Dickinson, Grapes 1997), for example, in
young-glacial landscape (Jonczak et al. 2016). About
60% of the exposed land surface in the Northern
Hemisphere seasonally freezes and thaws (Zhang et
al. 1999) and polar regions particularly favour repeat-
ed freeze-thaw cycles. These cycles further damage of
grains (Woronko 2016) thus resulting in deposition of
silica is triggered and cause a huge effect on their ge-
ochemical and ecological availability (Dietzel 2005).
Our study shows a relatively limited number of the
C-type grains, however their occurrence is occasion-
ally as high as 25% (Fig. 3). Additionally, encrusta-
tion is more or less present at surfaces of practically
all investigated grains, for example in tiny microhol-
es and depressions. This clearly argues that a scaly-
grained cover results from likely post-sedimentary
processes induced by seasonal and daily frost action,
since cryoconite holes are frozen during winter and
during the night-time. Similar record of freeze-thaw
processes can be also found in several palaeoenviron-
ments (Kalińska-Nartiša et al. 2015, 2017; Woronko,
Pisarska-Jamroży 2016).
Allochthonous (?) grains
Satellite observations (Uno et al. 2011) along with
isotopic data (Svensson et al. 2000) provide strong
evidence that ne-grained long-distance particles con-
siderably contribute in mineral deposition in Green-
land. The potential source areas are located not only
at arid and tropical latitudes (the Sahara and Arabia),
but also at higher latitudes, where continental con-
ditions prevail, for example in the Inner Mongolian
deserts (Uno et al. 2009). In this study, a long-distance
signal may be represented by few grains with bulbous
incrustation (D-type; Fig. 4O). These rarely observed
grains have allochthonous origin, since bulbous silica
precipitation is strictly correlated with warm and dry
climate conditions, where mineral surface is, at rst,
etched by highly concentrated, strongly alkaline solu-
tions, followed by silica precipitation in dry periods
(Krinsley, McCoy 1978). We can, therefore, assume
that these grains originate from distant deserts.
Fig. 5. Biplot of the pH values and percentage occurrence
of the B-type weathered quartz grains.
This study contributes to characterise cryoconite
ne-grained quartz from the cryoconite holes of the
Russell Glacier, southwest Greenland. By analysing
the grain shapes and character of its surface, we deci-
pher sedimentary signals originating from numerous
Irregular, sharp-edged quartz grains prevail in
the investigated cryoconites and result from grain-
to-grain contact in the ice during glacial transport.
Similar sharp grains have been observed in cryoco-
nites elsewhere. Grain rounding is likely due to both
chemical and mechanical processes. Under alkaline
conditions of pH 9.0 or higher quartz solubility sig-
nicantly increases, thus rounding grain corners and
edges. However, rounded grains are equally present
in holes with a lower pH value. These grains reveal
abrading by aeolian action, because their edges are
bulbous and not affected by etching-induced features.
Additionally, part of investigated grains records a
postsedimentary frost action, seen as a scaly-grained
incrustation occurring on a whole grain surface or at
the bottom of negative microforms. Aforementioned
grains come from numerous, but local sources. In
contrast, few grains with bulbous incrustation are
present and they argue for a dry and warm climate
origin. These grains may represent long-travelled
particles from distant deserts.
Prof. Albertas Bitinas (Klaipėda) and Prof. Petras
Šinkūnas (Vilnius) are thanked for valuable com-
ments, which improve the nal version of the manu-
script. Research was supported by the SIA SunGIS (E.
Kalińska-Nartiša), by the ERAF project No.
VIAA/1/16/118 (K. Lamsters) and by University of
Latvia project “Climate change and sustainable use of
natural resources” (No. AAP2016/B041).We thank
Reinis Pāvils for eld assistance.
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... This value is still significantly lower than in, for example, grains originating from glaciofluvial sediments of the last glaciation in central Latvia, Northern Europe, where up to 30% of grains carry glacial microtextures (Kalińska et al., 2020). On the other hand, our previous similar study from Greenland (Kalińska-Nartiša et al., 2017a) clearly shows that many investigated grains probably did not experience a glacial environment and only up to 14% of high-stress microtextures occur in a proglacial environment, and in a distal part as far as tens of kilometres from the current glacier position. We interpret this as short transportation distance, where grain outlines are more glacier-like than fluvial-like (Kalińska-Nartiša et al., 2017b). ...
... Following again the first recommendation given by Molén (2014) regarding grain fracturing, we shall consider the A-and E-type grains to carry the largest number of fresh fractures, conchoidal features and steps, and thus to originate from glacial transport. Our previous studies on cryoconite mineral matter, too, similarly reveal that mechanical processes broke the cryoconite grains as a consequence of freezing and glacial action (Zawierucha et al., 2019) under local conditions (Kalińska-Nartiša et al., 2017a). This opinion is additionally supported by other studies on cryoconite grains of glaciers in the world (Dong et al, 2016a(Dong et al, , 2016bWientjes et al., 2011;Yallop et al., 2012). ...
... That is why the meltwater pH might be an important factor influencing the final grain outline, as also considered by Brehm et al. (2005). However, in a previous study we did not really find a close relation between alkaline pH value and grain rounding that results in an increased number of B-type grains (Kalińska-Nartiša et al., 2017a). ...
Mineral grains from proglacial and supraglacial sedimentary settings in central south-eastern Iceland are considered in this study and analysed with the use of scanning electron microscope (SEM) techniques. By applying this, it is attempted to answer the key research question of whether quartz grains that come from a glacial-related sedimentary environment are indeed of glacial origin. The study also attempts to provide a linkage between microtextures produced on coarser and finer grains and to verify whether mineral grains from adjacent cryconite holes are similar or different. The preliminary assumption was that the more intense glacial grain record was based on several glacial activities from more and less recent glacial events in Iceland, and this assumption is true to some extent, because a set of sustained-shear-stress microtextures is found on coarser grains, especially in supraglacial and terminal moraine sediment samples. This latter reveals as much as 9% of glacial-type microtextures and this value seems much lower than in previous studies, which clearly argues for only limited grain glacial transformation. Glacial grains diminish with distance from a glacier, where fluvial grains dominate. Fine-grained cryoconite mineral grains reveal a proportion of glacially-induced microtextures that, nonetheless, may be a result of grain-crushing in the finer fraction. Long-distance-transported grains are practically absent in the finer fraction, likely because they are still too large to be entrained into the atmosphere. Finally, the adjacent neighbouring cryoconite holes reveal a different set of grain types, meaning that every cryoconite hole is independent and its grain type might be very random.
... It was firstly introduced by the Finnish-Swedish explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld during the exploration of Greenland interior in 1870 (Nordenskiöld, 1872(Nordenskiöld, , 1875, at the time sediment was inspected and described by the author as a little, granular structures on glacier (Fig. 1). The mineral matter covering ice surface originates from various sources, such as local moraines (Porter et al., 2010), surrounding valley walls (Reznichenko et al., 2011), insitu melting of englacial material (Kirkbride and Deline, 2013;Lewandowski et al., 2020), long-range atmospheric transport from distant deserts or volcanoes (Takeuchi and Li, 2008;Kalińska-Nartiša et al., 2017), anthropogenic activity and even extraterrestrial matter (e.g., micro-meteorites) (Maurette et al., 1987). ...
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Cryoconite is a mixture of mineral and organic material covering glacial ice, playing important roles in biogeochemical cycles and lowering the albedo of a glacier surface. Understanding the differences in structure of cryoconite across the globe can be important in recognizing past and future changes in supraglacial environments and ice-organisms-minerals interactions. Despite the worldwide distribution and over a century of studies, the basic characteristics of cryoconite, including its forms and geochemistry, remain poorly studied. The major purpose of our study is the presentation and description of morphological diversity, chemical and photoautotrophs composition, and organic matter content of cryoconite sampled from 33 polar and mountain glaciers around the globe. Observations revealed that cryoconite is represented by various morphologies including loose and granular forms. Granular cryoconite includes smooth, rounded, or irregularly shaped forms; with some having their surfaces covered by cyanobacteria filaments. The occurrence of granules increased with the organic matter content in cryoconite. Moreover, a major driver of cryoconite colouring was the concentration of organic matter and its interplay with minerals. The structure of cyanobacteria and algae communities in cryoconite differs between glaciers, but representatives of cyanobacteria families Pseudanabaenaceae and Phormidiaceae, and algae families Mesotaeniaceae and Ulotrichaceaewere the most common. The most of detected cyanobacterial taxa are known to produce polymeric substances (EPS) that may cement granules. Organic matter content in cryoconite varied between glaciers, ranging from 1% to 38%. The geochemistry of all the investigated samples reflected local sediment sources, except of highly concentrated Pb and Hg in cryoconite collected from European glaciers near industrialized regions, corroborating cryoconite as element-specific collector and potential environmental indicator of anthropogenic activity. Our work supports a notion that cryoconite may bemore than just simple sediment and instead exhibits complex structure with relevance for biodiversity and the functioning of glacial ecosystems.
... This marginal part of the glacier is particularly dark and rich in cryoconite material (e.g. Kalińska-Nartiša et al., 2017a;Stivrins et al., 2018) that is a major contributor to the darkening of the west GIS as well. Proglacial streams flowing from the Russell Glacier create the Sandflugtdalen valley-sandur, which is a large source for wind-transported dust (Kalińska-Nartiša et al., 2017b). ...
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This study presents the detailed survey of the northern marginal part of Russell Glacier, SW Greenland using the combination of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) photogrammetry and low-frequency ground penetrating radar (GPR) measurements. Obtained digital elevation model (DEM) and ice thickness data from GPR data allowed the generation of high precision subglacial topography model. We report uncertainties arising from GPR, GPS, and DEM suggesting sufficient accuracy for the reconstruction of glacier bed topography. GPR data and generated subglacial topography model does not reveal any possible Nye channel that could be incised into the bedrock, however, we were able to detect englacial tunnel that runs approximately parallel to the ice margin and possibly is a remnant of a tunnel that provided passage for ice-dammed lake waters during the latest jökulhlaups (2007, 2008). We also observe a radar-transparent layer up to 20 m from the glacier surface suggesting the boundary of cold/temperate ice or piezometric surface. The latter one is preferred due to the warm climatic conditions which are supposed to warm up possible winter cold wave.
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In interstadial deposits, sand interbeds gain limited consideration in comparison with organic sediments, and therefore tend to be underrepresented in paleoenvironmental reconstructions. The Raunis site, central-eastern Latvia, is an example where organic beds have already gained some attention and been used to understand the complex interactions between advance and retreat of the Scandinavian Ice Sheet in the region. Sandy interlayers have so far not been investigated in detail and their time of deposition has also been unknown, therefore exploring these clastic-organic sediment alternation is of interest. This study provides a new set of luminescence datings along with sedimentological information from the character of individual quartz grains as detected from scanning electron microscope analysis. Sandy interlayers are dated to between 12 and 122 ka. Fast component OSL signal dominates in all investigated samples, but several samples have broad and/or skewed dose distributions. Only one sample is considered reliable and provides an age of 12.0 ± 0.6 ka. A radiocarbon age from organic sediments in the same unit yields an age of 14 025 ± 270 cal y BP. These two dates do not agree within 2 sigma, and this is likely related to reservoir and hard water effects of the radiocarbon sample. Sediments at the Raunis site fall into the Greenland Interstadial 1, but more detailed specification is not possible. The rest of the OSL ages are older than expected, likely due to incomplete bleaching during deposition. This means that stratigraphic reliability of this key site is likely hampered for further regional correlation.
Mineral grain micromorphology is a useful proxy for reconstructing the history of mineral matter deposited on glaciers. In this study, we focus on the grain shape and micromorphology of mineral particles collected from cryoconite holes on glaciers in the Alps, the Caucasus and Svalbard. We use the scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to better understand the origin, transport regime, depositional processes, biofilm formations, degradation and grain transformation. Our results show that chemical and physical weathering are equally relevant in shaping mineral grains, although in polar and cold regions physical processes dominate. Grains with smooth edges owing to chemical weathering in some of the investigated samples, represent more than 60–70%. Comparison of main grain-type abundance helped to establish that climate is not the most important factor affecting grain micromorphology on glaciers, but local rock sources and supraglacial processes. We hypothesize that grain surface roughness plays an essential role with respect to biofilm formation, while at the same time bacteria-enhanced weathering enriches micromorphology (we observed polymeric substances on some of grains) and release critical compounds for nutrient-poor glacial systems. Thus, grain type and morphology might be an important factor influencing cryoconite granules formation and productivity of cryoconite holes. see:
Conference Paper
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Mineral particles both from supraglacial and proglacial environments as studied through a scanning electron microscope (SEM) analysis have already gained some attention (Kalińska-Nartiša et al., 2017a; Kalińska-Nartiša et al. b, 2017; Wientjes et al., 2011). Such study surely reveals sedimentary process along with factors influencing it and a way how a post-sedimentary transformation took place. For example, our previous research shows that rather numerous environments than exclusively one type of environment record on mineral grain surface, and glacial fracturing does not entirely respond for grain outline as primary expected. In this study, we examine mineral matter taken from supraglacial and proglacial areas of SE Iceland, and elucidate its origin and type of deposition. To obtain this, detailed SEM study with a focus of a general particle shape, character of edges and microtextures on their surface are obtained. Proglacial and supraglacial areas are investigated somehow in parallel, since knowledge about mineral grain characteristics of both areas may be vital information about sediment origin and transportation mode. Proglacial and supraglacial area of the Virkisjökull glacier was investigated and resulted into 11 and 14 sediment samples, respectively. In contrast, supraglacial area of the Svínafellsjökull was documented by 11 samples. Supraglacial material comes from cryoconite holes that occur upon glacier surfaces, whereas proglacial documents numerous landforms in a glacier foreland. Our study shows that practically no rounded grains occur in proglacial area, but rather angular and subangular grains. This latter dominates, and have often a high grain relief, meaning that many microtextures occur on a grain surface, which surely may support an importance of modern glacier environment. However, typical glacial-related microtextures as chattermarks and straight/curved grooves are in minority. Instead, grains carry conchoidal features of different size, flat cleavage surfaces and dulled surfaces, if rounded. In supraglacial environment, fresh glacial-related grains coexist with smooth-edge grains, and no clear pattern can be obtained. In general, glacial fracturing versus grain rounding in water seem a contradictory processes, since a clear relation between fresh and dulled grains is visible. Fresh grain dominates, when dulled ones stay in a minority, and dulled grains dominate with a simultaneous diminishing of fresh grains. This work was fnancially supported by the specifc support objective activity “Post-doctoral Research Aid” (Project id. N. of the Republic of Latvia, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, PostDoc Kristaps Lamsters research project No. and by performance-based funding of the University of Latvia within the “Climate change and sustainable use of natural resources” programme.
Beach ridges are landforms that exist on beach shorelines and can supply abundant information regarding palaeoenvironments. To better understand the hydrodynamic processes of beach ridges, a quartz microtexture analysis was carried out. In this study, the microtextural features of a total of 1063 quartz grains from seven beach ridge samples and eight reference samples from rivers, a dune, and a nearby beach were observed and analysed by scanning electron microscopy. The qualitative and quantitative results suggest that the quartz microtextures of the beach ridge samples present more fresh surfaces and percussion marks than the river samples but less angularity. The upper sequence samples from the beach ridge present higher values of fresh surfaces and percussion marks and lower dissolution than the lower sequence samples. A cluster analysis shows that the hydrodynamic conditions of Qinghai Lake underwent pronounced changes from weak to strong and then to weak at the present time. Furthermore, quantitative analyses indicate that the beach ridge and river sedimentary environments can be distinguished through the microtextural features of the 250–125 μm size fraction. However, more grain size fractions should be observed and analysed to interpret the hydrodynamic conditions. The quartz microtextural analysis of beach ridges may be an effective method reflecting the palaeohydrodynamic conditions.
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It is assumed that close to the margins of ice-sheets, glacial, fluvial and aeolian processes overlap, and combined with weathering processes, produce numer- ous sediments, in which quartz is a common mineral. Quartz grains, if available, may serve as a powerful tool in determining the depositional history, transportation mode and postdepositional processes. However, quartz grain studies in some modern glacial areas are still sparse. In this study, we examine for the first time quartz grains sampled from the modern glacial and proglacial environments of the Russell Glacier, South West Greenland in binocular microscope and scanning electron microscope, to analyze their shape, character of surface and microtextures. We debate whether the investigated quartz grains reveal glacial characteristics and to what extent they carry a signal of another transportation and sedimentary processes. Although glacial fracturing and abrasion occur in grain suites, most mechanical origin features are not of a high frequency or freshness, potentially suggesting a reduced shear stress in the glacier from its limited thickness and influence of the pressurized water at the ice-bed. In contrast, the signal that originates from the fluvial environment is much stronger derived by numerous aqueous-induced features present on quartz grain surfaces. Aeolian-induced microtextures on grain sur- faces increase among the samples the closest to the ice margin, which may be due to enhanced aeolian activity, but are practically absent in sediments taken from the small scale aeolian landforms. In contrast, aeolian grains have been found in the bigger-size (1.0–2.0 mm) investigated fraction. These grains gained the strongest aeolian abrasion, possibly due to changes in transportation mode.
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Sand grains from Quaternary glacial, aeolian and fluvial deposits in the Mazovian Lowland, central Poland, were examined to characterize the effects of different Quaternary processes on sand-grain surfaces that experienced repeated cycles of intense polar-desert-like conditions during the Middle and Late Pleistocene. A cold, dry and windy periglacial environment prevailed here at least twice between the Saalian (Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 6) and Holocene (MIS 1) stages. Because the surface characteristics of quartz sand grains can provide important palaeoenvironmental information, we examined grains extracted from sediment samples in different landforms to determine their surficial features from scanning electron microscope images. The grain surfaces were dominated by microtextures characteristic of aeolian-induced grain transformation, indicated by a high percentage of well-rounded, low-relief-worn grains with dish-shaped depressions, bulbous edges and upturned plates. Although remnants of previous sedimentary cycles were occasionally observed, aeolian effects were dominant even in glacial and fluvial settings. Quartz microtextures indicated that none of the examined grains represented their original setting, but rather suggested remobilisation under periglacial conditions
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In arid landscapes across the globe, aeolian processes are key drivers of landscape change, but arid Arctic regions are often overlooked. In the Kangerlussuaq region of West Greenland, strong katabatic winds have removed discrete patches of soil and vegetation, exposing unproductive glacial till and bedrock. Although lake-sediment records suggest that landscape destabilization began approximately 1000 years ago, the upland soil erosion has never been directly dated. We use a novel application of lichenometry to estimate the rates and timing of soil erosion. We show that the formation of deflation patches occurred approximately 800–230 years ago, in general agreement with lake-sediment records. In West Greenland, the ‘Little Ice Age’ (AD 1350–1880) was characterized by a cold and arid climate, conditions that increased susceptibility to erosion. On average, deflation patches are expanding at a rate of 2.5 cm yr⁻¹, and variation in the rate of patch expansion cannot be explained by proximity to the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS), slope, aspect, elevation, or patch size. An erosional threshold exists in this aeolian system, with climate conditions necessary for patch formation likely harsher than those necessary for continued patch expansion, a result that has implications for land management in arid regions. Currently, deflation patches are expanding throughout the study region and are forming in areas close to the GrIS, but future deflation rates are dependent on projected climate and potential land-use changes. Our results stress the importance of aeolian processes in arid polar landscapes such as Kangerlussuaq, and demonstrate the use of aeolian landforms in paleoclimate reconstructions and predicting future landscape change.
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The studies on quartz silt surface microstructures using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were performed in Brunic Arenosol and Gleyic Ortsteinic Podzol, as major components of soil cover of the lower supra-flood terrace of the Słupia River N Poland. Brunic Arenosols have developed from coarse- and medium-grained fluvioglacial sands, whereas Podzols from aeolian sands of mid-Holocene age, which in some places were covered with younger aeolian deposits. A group of at least 100 randomly selected grains from each soil horizon have been analyzed. The grains were classified into one of the following groups: fresh (type A), grains with the features of chemical weathering (type B), grains coated with scaly-grain incrustations (type C), grains coated with bulbous incrustations (type D), and cracked grains (type E). Parent materials of the investigated soils did not differ significantly in terms of contribution of grain types and type C predominated in both soils. Significant differences were noted in soil solums. Grains covered by scaly-grained incrustations predominated in Brunic Arenosol, which constituted 62–89%. In the profile of Gleyic Ortsteinic Podzol grains type B predominated in AE and E horizons (65–82%), whereas in the remaining horizons grains type C (54–77%).
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In order to better understand the source of minerals on the dark-colored ice, located in the Greenland ice sheet ablation zone, we analyzed the Sr and Nd isotopic ratios of minerals in cryoconite, which were collected from glaciers in northwest and southwest Greenland. We focused on the following: (i) comparison of the isotopes of minerals in cyroconite with those in sediments from local and distant areas, (ii) regional variations in western Greenland, and (iii) spatial variations across an individual a glacier. The mineral components of the cryoconite showed variable Sr and Nd isotopic ratios (87Sr/86Sr: 0.711335 to 0.742406, εNd (0): −33.1 to −22.9), which corresponded to those of the englacial dust and moraine on and around the glaciers but were significantly different from those of the distant deserts that have been considered to be primary sources of mineral dust on the Greenland Ice Sheet. This suggests that the minerals within the cryoconites were mainly derived from local sediments, rather than from distant areas. The Sr ratios in the northwestern region were significantly higher than those in the southwestern region. This is probably due to geological differences in the source areas, such as the surrounding glaciers in each region. The isotopic ratios further varied spatially within a glacier (Qaanaaq and Kangerlussuaq areas), indicating that the silicate minerals on the glaciers were derived not from a single source but from multiple sources, such as englacial dust and wind-blown minerals from the moraine surrounding the glaciers.
Conference Paper
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Current climate warming is accelerating mass loss from most of the arctic glaciers. The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) has also experienced dramatic ice melt in recent years (Koenig et al, 2016) with an increase in crevices that serve as conduits (called moulins) that transport meltwater rapidly into the glacier (Fig. 1, down). Water, flowing through these moulins down to the bottom of the ice sheet and towards the sea, can modify the primary geochemical signature of precipitation. Moreover, a certain part of the glacial surface is dispersed by cryoconite holes, near-vertical tubes formed as consequence of melting induced by solar heating of dark debris (Cook et al., 2016) (Fig. 1, up). Cryoconite hole may contribute to the glacial runoff on ablating ice surface (Fountain et al, 2008). Although a big effort has been done from the scientific community in order to interpret the sedimentary records of past extreme events in arctic areas, rather little is known about the geochemistry of glacial meltwater input into the oceans. For this reason, it is of interest to measure the concentration of elements accumulate in the unaltered ice body and on the meltwater within cryoconite holes flowing into the moulins. In this study the preliminary data about the major element compositions and the heavy metals level of ice and meltwater collected on Eqip Sermia Glacier (Greenland) are examined. Eqip Sermia Glacier is located close to Disko Bugt, in the central-western coast of Greenland, and represents the link between GrIS and the largest ice-free expanse proglacial area (Fig. 2). During GRAAL II expedition (Greenland Research Animal and Algae) organized by Spélé'Ice Association in summer 2010 (Romeo et al, 2014), samples for geochemical analysis were collected in a region situated at 967 m asl, tens of kilometres from the glacial margin of the southern lobe (69°36 N - 49°47 W). Sampling took place within cryoconite holes (C4G) and inside the Fossil Moulin (C5G) at 15 m below the glacier surface (Fig. 2). Cryoconite water and unmelted, relatively-old ice from the cave wall were stored in pre-cleaned polyethylene plastic bottles in the dark at 5 °C and analysed after filtering through 0.4 µm pore-size in the laboratory. Major ions were measured with ion chromatograph while heavy metals were determined through ICPMS at the Chelab (Treviso, Italy). These preliminary results show that unmelted old ice has a high salinity and solute concentration respect to cryoconite water which is exceptional much lower. The TDS values are 9 mg/L and 1 mg/L in ice and cryoconite water, respectively. In this poorly buffered system, pH values are around 6.7 in the cryoconites hole and 6.4 in the ice. Figure 3 (up) compares the concentrations of major species in glacier ice and cryoconites hole. The general scheme of elements in decreasing order of their concentration for the cryoconite sample was Cl>Na>SO4>K>Ca while for ice was Cl>Na>K>HCO3>Ca. Similarity in trends in the two sample types confirms that the environment indeed contains these elements in that order of abundance, exception for sulphate that was detected only in cryoconite hole suggesting that oxidation and/or dissolution of trace sulphides and sulphates in dust is important supply water within the holes. The chemical composition of the dust also impacts on bicarbonate concentration. As its composition is mainly silicate, consisting of high abundance of quartz particles with almost the same proportion of albite and hornblende (Sanna & Romeo, 2015), its weathering provide irrelevant quantity of HCO3. The Ca:Cl equivalent ratio of 0.238 in Fossil Moulin ice (greater than seawater ratio: 0.038) also suggests significant terrestrial input of terrestrial particles to the surface of Eqip Sermia glacial at the time of deposition. The 0.049 value in cryoconite water is close to snow ratio of 0.20. Moreover the nitrate is under detection limit likely because lost to post depositional diffusion in the ice and/or by biological uptake and autotrophic organisms living in the cryoconite holes. Amongst the minor species analysed heavy metals, aluminium has relative high concentration in both samples (Fig. 3 down) followed by boron and vanadium. The trace elements pattern of unmelted ice shows a high pick for nickel and a slight enrichment for zinc, copper and iron. Figure 4 reports the trace elements of unmelted ice normalized to the averaged upper continental crust (Taylor & McLennan,1995) compared to the cryoconite sediments collected in the neighbouring area (Sanna & Romeo, 2015). Enrichment in cobalt and a depletion in arsenic, chromium, copper and barium denotes a local source probably related to the nearby altered rocks outcropping along the coast. As suggested from this initial study, cryoconites contain the primary solutes derived directly from snow and dust, and they are flushed as they coalesce with dilute supraglacial streams during summer melt while the glacier accumulates heavy metals that can be released during melting. Further work will be required to correctly interpret the geochemical input recorded in the ocean of extreme warm events that inject large quantity of meltwater.
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A dark region of tens of kilometres width is present on the western ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet. The dark appearance is caused by higher amounts of dust. This dust has either been deposited recently or was brought to the surface by outcropping ice. Because the resulting lower albedos may have a significant effect on melt rates, we analysed surface dust, also called cryoconite, from locations in the dark region as well as locations from the brighter surrounding reference ice with microscopic and geochemical techniques to unravel the composition and origin. We find that (part of) the material indeed crops out from the ice, and that there is little difference between dust from the dark region and from the reference ice. Although, the dust from the dark region seems enriched in trace and minor elements that are mainly present in the current atmosphere because of anthropogenic activity. This enrichment is probably caused by higher precipitation and lower melt rates in the dark region relative to the ice marginal zone. The rare earth elemental ratios of the investigated material are approximately the same for all sites and resemble Earths average crust composition. Therefore, the cryoconite does probably not contain volcanic material. The mineralogical composition of the dust excludes Asian deserts, which are often found as provenance for glacial dust in ice cores, as source regions. Consequently, the outcropping dust likely has a more regional origin. Finally, we find cyanobacteria and algae in the cryoconite. Total Organic Carbon accounts for up to 5 weight percentage of the cryoconite from the dark region, whereas dust samples from the reference ice contain only 1% or less. This organic material is likely formed in situ. Because of their high light absorbency, cyanobacteria and the organic material they produce, contribute significantly to the low albedo of the dark region.
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This study presents the Nd-Sr isotopic compositions and size distributions of cryoconite deposited on the glaciers at different locations on the Tibetan Plateau, in order to trace its source areas and the provenance of long-range transported (LRT) Asian dust on the Tibetan Plateau. The result of SEM-EDS analysis indicated that mineral dust particles were dominant in the cryoconite. Most of the cryoconite samples from the Tibetan Plateau indicated different Sr and Nd isotopic composition compared with sand from large deserts (e.g., the Taklimakan and Qaidam deserts). Some cryoconite samples showed very similar Nd-Sr isotopic ratios compared with those of nearby glacier basins (e.g., at Laohugou Glacier No.12, Dongkemadi Glacier and Shiyi Glacier), indicating the potential input of local crustal dust to cryoconite. The volume-size distribution for the cryoconite particles also indicated bi-modal distribution graphs with volume median diameters ranging from 0.57 to 20 μm and from 20 to 100 μm, demonstrating the contribution of both LRT Asian dust and local dust inputs to cryoconite. Based on the particle size distribution, we calculated a mean number ratio of local dust contribution to cryoconite ranging from 0.7% (Baishui Glacier No.1) to 17.6% (Shiyi Glacier) on the Tibetan Plateau. In general, the marked difference in the Nd-Sr isotopic ratios of cryoconite compared with those of large deserts probably indicates that, materials from the western deserts have not been easily transported to the hinterland of Tibetan Plateau by the Westerlies under the current climatic conditions, and the arid deserts on the Tibetan Plateau are the most likely sources for cryoconite deposition. The resistance of the Tibetan Plateau to the Westerlies may have caused such phenomena, especially for LRT eolian dust transported over the Tibetan Plateau. Thus, this work is of great importance in understanding the large scale eolian dust transport and climate over the Tibetan Plateau.
We investigated chemical weathering trends within the fine-grained (< 63 μm; silt and clay) fraction of sediments collected from meltwater streams emanating from glaciers in the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV; Wright and Taylor Valleys) by integrating grain size, BET surface area, and whole-rock geochemistry. While both valleys currently host cold-based glaciers, the sediment underlying the ephemeral glacial streams was deposited under differing glacial conditions. In Wright Valley (Clark Glacier stream), Brownworth and Trilogy drifts were deposited via cold-based glaciation, whereas the Ross Sea drift that underlies Delta Stream in Taylor Valley likely reflects contributions from wet-based ice. Wright Valley stream sediments are typically coarser grained and have a higher silt content as compared to Taylor Valley sediments. These sediments consist primarily of pyroxenes, quartz, and feldspars, with the percentages of pyroxenes and quartz systematically increasing downstream. The percentage of phyllosilicates ranges from 4 to 18% and decreases with downstream distance. In contrast, Taylor Valley sediments (Delta Stream) are finer-grained and exhibit lower percentages of both pyroxene and quartz and a significantly higher percentage of phyllosilicates (30–43%). Concentrations of all mineral phases remain relatively consistent in abundance with downstream transport in the Delta Stream transect as compared to Clark Glacier stream sediments. Standard chemical weathering indices, such as the Chemical Index of Alteration (CIA), indicate that chemical weathering is occurring within the silt and clay fractions of Antarctic stream sediments and is particularly pronounced in Delta Stream sediments that have BET surface area measurements > 40 m²/g. Utilization of MFW (mafic-felsic-weathered) and A-CN-K (Al2O3-CaO + Na2O-K2O) plots, however, are more effective in discerning the extent and nature of chemical weathering in these stream systems. Ca and Na depletion observed within the sediments exhibiting the highest surface area in Delta Stream suggest that chemical weathering may result in pitting and/or incongruent dissolution of pyroxenes and feldspars, as well as the development of amorphous and/or nanophase weathering products. In contrast, Clark Glacier stream sediments do not have similar leaching trends in the fine-grained sediment fraction and exhibit minimal weathering overall. This may suggest that fine-grained material is being trapped on top of the Clark Glacier surface and has not yet been transported into the weathering environment of the hyporheic zone due to timing of sampling. Alternatively, complete dissolution of very fine-grained sediment could be occurring in this stream transect, and is therefore not preserved in the fine sediment fraction. Overall, the magnitude of chemical weathering observed between the two stream systems is ultimately related to the nature of the underlying drift (cold and wet-based drift deposition), dispersal patterns of eolian fines, and variable stream discharge rates. Thus, incorporation of local fine-grained sediment derived from the underlying glacial drift deposits and distributed via the varying wind regimes within the hyper-arid climate into active stream channels may facilitate incongruent mineral dissolution and development of weathering products, and ultimately influence the composition and concentration of meltwater stream solutes.