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Deuerling -

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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta



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Fine-grained sediments deposited by retreating glaciers weather faster than the global average and this weathering can impact the global carbon cycle and oceanic fluxes of nutrients and radiogenic isotopes. Much work has focused on subglacial and proglacial weathering of continental ice sheets, but little is known about weathering and resulting fluxes from deglacial watersheds, which are disconnected from the ice sheets and discharge only annual precipitation and permafrost melt. We investigate the effects of exposure age and precipitation on weathering intensity in four deglacial watersheds on Greenland that form a transect from the coast near Sisimiut toward the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) near Kangerlussuaq based on evaluations of major ion compositions, Sr isotope ratios, and mineral saturation states of waters and sediments. The transect is underlain by Archean orthogneiss and is characterized by gradients in moraine ages (∼7.5–8.0 ky inland to ∼10 ky at the coast) and water balance (−150 mm/yr inland to +150 mm/yr at the coast). Anion compositions are generally dominated by HCO3, but SO4 becomes increasingly important toward the coast, reflecting a switch from trace carbonate dissolution to sulfide mineral oxidation. Coastal watersheds have a higher proportion of dissolved silica, higher Na/Cl, Si/Ca, and lower Ca/Sr ratios than inland watersheds, indicating an increase in the relative proportion of silicate weathering and an increase in the extent of weathering toward the coast. More extensive weathering near the coast is also apparent in differences in the 87Sr/86Sr ratios of stream water and bedload (Δ87Sr/86Sr), which decreases from 0.017 inland to 0.005 at the coast, and in increased saturation states relative to amorphous SiO2 and quartz. The steep weathering gradient from inland to coastal watersheds reflects enhanced weathering compared to that expected from the 2 to 3 ky difference in exposure age caused by elevated coastal precipitation. The gradient of weathering with exposure age, water budget and distance from the ice sheet indicates that oceanic and atmospheric fluxes will change as continental glaciers retreat, precipitation patterns across the deglacial region readjust, and the relative proportion of deglacial to proglacial runoff increases.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Elsevier in Geocimica et Cosmochimica Acta on September 21, 2015, available online:

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.