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Cryostratigraphy of late Pleistocene syngenetic permafrost (yedoma) in northern Alaska, Itkillik River exposure

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

M. Kanevskiy*
Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
Y. Shur
Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
D. Fortier
Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA Département de géographie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada
M.T. Jorgenson
Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA Alaska Ecoscience, Fairbanks, AK, USA
E. Stephani
Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
Corresponding author.


Extremely ice-rich syngenetic permafrost, or yedoma, developed extensively under the cold climate of the Pleistocene in unglaciated regions of Eurasia and North America. In Alaska, yedoma occurs in the Arctic Foothills, the northern part of the Seward Peninsula, and in interior Alaska. A remarkable 33-m-high exposure along the lower Itkillik River in northern Alaska opened an opportunity to study the unmodified yedoma, including stratigraphy, particle-size distribution, soil carbon contents, morphology and quantity of segregated, wedge, and thermokarst-cave ice. The exposed permafrost sequence comprised seven cryostratigraphic units, which formed over a period from > 48,000 to 5,000 14C yr BP, including: 1) active layer; 2) intermediate layer of the upper permafrost; 3–4) two yedoma silt units with different thicknesses of syngenetic ice wedges; 5) buried peat layer; 6) buried intermediate layer beneath the peat; and 7) silt layer with short ice wedges. This exposure is comparable to the well known Mus-Khaya and Duvanny Yar yedoma exposures in Russia. Based on our field observations, literature sources, and interpretation of satellite images and aerial photography, we have developed a preliminary map of yedoma distribution in Alaska.

Research Article
University of Washington

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