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Late Quaternary glaciations in Far NE Russia; combining moraines, topography and chronology to assess regional and global glaciation synchrony

Barr, ID and Clark, CD (2012) Late Quaternary glaciations in Far NE Russia; combining moraines, topography and chronology to assess regional and global glaciation synchrony. Quaternary Science Reviews, 53. pp. 72-87. ISSN 0277-3791

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Abstract

During various periods of Late Quaternary glaciation, small ice-sheets, -caps, -fields and valley glaciers, occupied the mountains and uplands of Far NE Russia (including the Verkhoyansk, Suntar-Khayata, and Chersky Mountains; the Kolyma-Anyuy and Koryak Highlands; and much of the Kamchatka and Chukchi Peninsulas). Here, the margins of former glaciers across this region are constrained through the comprehensive mapping of moraines from remote sensing data (Landsat 7 ETM+ satellite images; ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model (GDEM2); and Viewfinder Panorama DEM data). A total of 8414 moraines are mapped, and this record is integrated with a series of published age-estimates (n = 25), considered to chronologically-constrain former ice-margin positions. Geomorphological and chronological data are compiled in a Geographic Information System (GIS) to produce 'best estimate' reconstructions of ice extent during the global Last Glacial Maximum (gLGM) and, to a lesser degree, during earlier phases of glaciation. The data reveal that much of Far NE Russia (∼1,092,427 km 2 ) preserves a glaciated landscape (i.e. is bounded by moraines), but there is no evidence of former ice masses having extended more than 270 km beyond mountain centres (suggesting that, during the Late Quaternary, the region has not been occupied by extensive ice sheets). During the gLGM, specifically, glaciers occupied ∼253,000 km 2 , and rarely extended more than 50 km in length. During earlier (pre-gLGM) periods, glaciers were more extensive, though the timing of former glaciation, and the maximum Quaternary extent, appears to have been asynchronous across the region, and out-of-phase with ice-extent maxima elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. This glacial history is partly explained through consideration of climatic-forcing (particularly moisture-availability, solar insolation and albedo), though topographic-controls upon the former extent and dynamics of glaciers are also considered, as are topographic-controls upon moraine deposition and preservation. Ultimately, our ability to understand the glacial and climatic history of this region is restricted when the geomorphological-record alone is considered, particularly as directly-dated glacial deposits are few, and topographic and climatic controls upon the moraine record are difficult to distinguish. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

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