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What Triggers Retrogressive Thaw Slumps in the Arctic Coastal Zone?

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Citation:
Lantuit, H. , Fritz, M. , Krautblatter, M. , Angelopoulos, M. and Pollard, W. H. (2013): What Triggers Retrogressive Thaw Slumps in the Arctic Coastal Zone? , 9th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM2013), Halifax, Canada, 9 December 2013 - 13 December 2013 .
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Abstract:

Retrogressive thaw slumps (RTS) are spectacular lateral thermokarst features occurring in ice-rich permafrost regions. They develop along streams or coastlines and expand inland to form landslide-like U-shaped scars exceeding a kilometer size in selected locations. These slumps are a major source of ediment, organic carbon and nutrients that have a large effect on the aquatic environment. The consequences of the occurrence of RTS, which have been shown to occur at increased frequencies in the Arctic are not well understood. The impact of RTS sediment delivery on coastal ecosystems is even less known, even though RTS contribute quantities of sediment sometimes greater than coastal erosion itself. In this study, we present the results of a systemic multidisciplinary study attempting to understand the structure, the evolution and the fate of RTS on Herschel Island, Yukon Territory, in the southern Canadian Beaufort Sea and to relate it to slump occurrence. We use information stemming from cryostratigraphic sampling in the ice headwall of the RTS, from cores collected above the headwall and in the slump floor and from geophysics (mostly Direct Current and Capacitive Coupled Resistivity) to describe the structure of the slump. We emphasize the role of ground ice distribution, sea water vicinity and sensible and radiative heat input in dictating the pace at which slump initiate, stabilize and re-activate. We compare this information to past knowledge on slumps to highlight the transient nature of slump occurrence in the arctic coastal zone and the existence of “pulses” of slump activity with potentially important impacts on the nearshore ecosystem.

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