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Earth and Planetary Science Letters






Due to the lack of data, the extent, thickness and drift patterns of sea ice and icebergs in the glacial Arctic remains poorly constrained. Earlier studies are contradictory proposing either a cessation of the marine cryosphere or an ice drift system operating like present-day. Here we examine the marine Arctic cryosphere during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) using a high-resolution, regional ocean-sea ice model. Whereas modern sea ice in the western Arctic Basin can circulate in the Beaufort Gyre for decades, our model studies present an extreme shortcut of glacial ice drift. In more detail, our results show a clockwise sea-ice drift in the western Arctic Basin that merges into a direct trans-Arctic path towards Fram Strait. This is consistent with dated ice plow marks on the seafloor, which show the orientation of iceberg drift in this direction. Also ice-transported iron-oxide grains deposited in Fram Strait, can be matched by their chemical composition to similar grains found in potential sources from the entire circum-Arctic. The model results indicate that the pattern of Arctic sea-ice drift during the LGM is established by wind fields and seems to be a general feature of the glacial ocean. Our model results do not indicate a cessation in ice drift during the LGM.


This is the author(s) accepted version of an article published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The final version may be accessed at

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original Publication Citation

Starz, M., Gong, X., Stein, R., Darby, D. A., Kauker, F., & Lohmann, G. (2012). Glacial shortcut of Arctic sea-ice transport. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 357, 257-267.


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