In the marine environment, stability of the glacier terminus and the location of subglacial streams are the dominant controls on the distribution of grounding-line deposits within morainal banks. A morainal bank complex in Muir Inlet, Glacier Bay, SE Alaska, is used to develop a model of terminus stability and location of subglacial streams along the grounding line of temperate marine glaciers. This model can be used to interpret former grounding-line conditions in other glacimarine settings from the facies architecture within morainal bank deposits. The Muir Inlet morainal bank complex was deposited between 1860 A.D. and 1899 A.D., and historical observations provide a record of terminus positions, glacial retreat rates and sedimentary sources. These data are used to reconstruct the depositional environment and to develop a correlation between sedimentary facies and conditions along the grounding line. Four seismic facies identified on the high-resolution seismic-reflection profiles are used to interpret sedimentary facies within the morainal bank complex. Terminus stability is interpreted from the distribution of sedimentary facies within three distinct submarine geomorphic features, a grounding-line fan; stratified ridges, and a field of push ridges. The grounding-line fan was deposited along a stable terminus and is represented on seismic-reflection profiles by two distinct seismic facies, a proximal and a distal fan facies. The proximal fan facies was deposited at the efflux of subglacial streams and indicates the location of former glacifluvial discharges into the sea. Stratified ridges formed as a result of the influence of a quasi-stable terminus on the distribution of sedimentary facies along the grounding line. A field of push ridges formed along the grounding line of an unstable terminus that completely reworked the grounding-line deposits through glacitectonic deformation. Between 1860 A.D. and 1899 A.D. (39 years), 8.96 x 108 m3 of sediment were deposited within the Muir Inlet morainal bank complex at an average annual sediment accumulation rate of 2.3 x 107 m3/a. This rate represents the annual sediment production capacity of the glacier when the Muir Inlet drainage basin is filled with glacial ice.
Additional publication details
Evaluation of conditions along the grounding line of temperate marine glaciers: An example from Muir Inlet, Glacier Bay, Alaska