Quartz weathering in freeze–thaw cycles: experiment and application to the El’gygytgyn Crater Lake record for tracing Siberian permafrost history


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Georg.Schwamborn [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

The object of this study is to test the assumption that cryogenic weathering (here understood as in-situ disintegration of rock under cold-climate conditions including ice as a weathering agent) preferentially breaks up quartz grains. We apply the results of laboratory tests to a Quaternary sediment record. The combination of silt production, relative quartz enrichment in the silt fraction, and quartz grain micro- morphology is traced in a multi-100-kyr lake sediment archive as indicator data for cryogenic weathering. Constant cryogenic weathering conditions are inferred for at least the last 220.000 years from a lake sediment core of El’gygytgyn Crater, northeast Russia. This is the longest continuous terrestrial archive currently known for the continental Arctic. Quartz enrichment in the fines evolves from seasonal freeze–thaw weathering as demonstrated in laboratory testing where over 100 freeze and thaw cycles crack quartz grains preferentially over feldspar. Microscopic grain fea- tures demonstrate that freeze–thaw cycling probably disrupts quartz grains along mineral impurities such as bubble trails, gas–liquid inclusions, or mineralogical sub- grain boundaries. Single-grain micromorphology (e.g. angular outlines, sharp edges, microcracks, brittle surfaces) illustrates how quartz becomes fragmented due to cryogenic cracking of the grains. The single-grain features stemming from the weathering dynamics are preserved even after a grain is transported off site (i.e. in mobile slope material, in seasonal river run-off, into a lake basin) and may serve as first-order proxy data for permafrost conditions in Quaternary records.



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Published
Eprint ID
30822
DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0459.2012.00472.x

Cite as
Schwamborn, G. , Schirrmeister, L. , Frütsch, F. and Diekmann, B. (2012): Quartz weathering in freeze–thaw cycles: experiment and application to the El’gygytgyn Crater Lake record for tracing Siberian permafrost history , Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography, 94 . doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0459.2012.00472.x


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