Quartz grain microtextures illuminate Pliocene periglacial sand fluxes on the Antarctic continental margin

Sandra Passchier, Melissa A. Hansen, Jessica Rosenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


On high-latitude continental margins sediment is supplied from land to the deep sea through a variety of processes, including iceberg and sea-ice rafting, and bottom current transport. The accurate reconstruction of sediment fluxes from these sources through time is important in palaeoclimate reconstructions. The goal of this study was to assess a shift in the intensity of glacial processes, iceberg and sea-ice rafting during the Pliocene through an investigation of coarse sediment deposited at the AND-2A site in the Ross Sea and at International Ocean Discovery Program Site U1359 on the Antarctic continental rise. Terrigenous particle-size distributions and suites of quartz grain microtextures in the sand fraction of the deep-sea sediments were compared to those from Antarctic glaciomarine diamictites as a baseline for proximal glacial sediment in its source area. Using images acquired through Scanning Electron Microscopy, and following a quantitative approach, fewer immature and potentially glacially transported grains were found in Pliocene deep-sea sand fractions than in ice-contact sediments. Specifically, in the lower Pliocene interval silt and fine sand percentages are elevated, and microtextures in at least half of the sand fraction are inconsistent with a primary glacial origin. Larger numbers of chemically altered and abraded grains in the deep-sea sand fraction, along with microtextures that are diagnostic of periglacial environments, suggest a role for eolian sediment transport. These results highlight the anomalous nature of high-latitude sediment fluxes during prolonged periods of ice retreat. Furthermore, the identification of a significant offshore sediment flux during Antarctic deglaciation has implications for estimated nutrient supply to the Southern Ocean and the potential for high-latitude climate feedbacks under warmer climate states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-581
Number of pages18
JournalDepositional Record
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Antarctica
  • IRD
  • eolian
  • microtexture


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