Retrogressive Thaw Slumps: Indicators of Holocene Climate Changes in the Richardson Mountains-Peel Plateau, Northwestern Canada

Roxanne Frappier, Université D'Ottawa / University Of Ottawa, Université D'Ottawa / University Of Ottawa
The ongoing climate warming is expected to increase thermokarst activity and their impacts by inducing permafrost degradation and active layer deepening. A retrogressive thaw slump, which represents the most dynamic thermokarst landform, was investigated in the Richardson Mountains-Peel Plateau region. The exposed material at the thaw slump represents an opportunity to characterize the cryostratigraphy of the uppermost 5 m of permafrost. Analyses of the stratigraphy, sedimentology, isotope
more » ... emistry and radiocarbon dating is presented. Six sites were also identified on an elevation-vegetation gradient to provide complementary data on thaw layer thickness. Summer air temperatures, vegetation cover type, mesoscale conditions modifying the snowpack, timing of the snow accumulation and winter air temperature inversions are identified as the main drivers of thaw layer thickness in the region. The physical and chemical parameters of the massive ground ice exposed at the thaw slump are characteristic of buried glacier ice that experienced water infiltration and partial refreezing. The layer between the massive ground ice units and the thaw layer in the thaw slump is identified as a relict thaw layer and represents the period of maximum active layer deepening. It dates to the Holocene thermal maximum, which represents a period of important thermokarst activity that resulted in widespread paleo-thaw unconformities across northwestern Canada. Association of the region's thaw slump activity with paleoclimatic parameters provide indication that the combination of formerly glaciated continuous permafrost, hummocky rolling moraine terrain, stream-incised relief, and massive ground ice, coupled with major rainfall events, represents a set of condition that is favourable to thaw slump activity.
doi:10.20381/ruor-20893 fatcat:lhsotmszvre3bir2eg3ht3xl6a