Despite the Arctic sea ice cover's recognized sensitivity to environmental change, the role of sediment inclusions in lowering ice albedo and affecting ice ablation is poorly understood. Sea ice sediment inclusions were studied in the central Arctic Ocean during the Arctic 91 expedition and in the Laptev Sea (East Siberian Arctic Region Expedition 1992). Results from these investigations are here combined with previous studies performed in major areas of ice ablation and the southern central Arctic Ocean. This study documents the regional distribution and composition of particle-laden ice, investigates and evaluates processes by which sediment is incorporated into the ice cover, and identifies transport paths and probable depositional centers for the released sediment. In April 1992, sea ice in the Laptev Sea was relatively clean. The sediment occasionally observed was distributed diffusely over the entire ice column, forming turbid ice. Observations indicate that frazil and anchor ice formation occurring in a large coastal polynya provide a main mechanism for sediment entrainment. In the central Arctic Ocean sediments are concentrated in layers within or at the surface of ice floes due to melting and refreezing processes. The surface sediment accumulation in central Arctic multi-year sea ice exceeds by far the amounts observed in first-year ice from the Laptev Sea in April 1992. Sea ice sediments are generally fine grained, although coarse sediments and stones up to 5 cm in diameter are observed. Component analysis indicates that quartz and clay minerals are the main terrigenous sediment particles. The biogenous components, namely shells of pelecypods and benthic foraminiferal tests, point to a shallow, benthic, marine source area. Apparently, sediment inclusions were resuspended from shelf areas before and incorporated into the sea ice by suspension freezing. Clay mineralogy of ice-rafted sediments provides information on potential source areas. A smectite maximum in sea ice sediment samples repeatedly occurred between 81??N and 83??N along the Arctic 91 transect, indicating a rather stable and narrow smectite rich ice drift stream of the Transpolar Drift. The smectite concentrations are comparable to those found in both Laptev Sea shelf sediments and anchor ice sediments, pointing to this sea as a potential source area for sea ice sediments. In the central Arctic Ocean sea ice clay mineralogy is significantly different from deep-sea clay mineral distribution patterns. The contribution of sea ice sediments to the deep sea is apparently diluted by sedimentary material provided by other transport mechanisms. ?? 1994.
Additional publication details
Sediments in Arctic sea ice: Implications for entrainment, transport and release