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Arctic continental shelf morphology related to sea-ice zonation, Beaufort Sea, Alaska

January 1, 1978

Landsat-1 and NOAA satellite imagery for the winter 1972-1973, and a variety of ice and sea-floor data were used to study sea-ice zonation and dynamics and their relation to bottom morphology and geology on the Beaufort Sea continental shelf of arctic Alaska. In early winter the location of the boundary between undeformed fast ice and westward-drifting pack ice of the Pacific Gyre is controlled by major coastal promontories. Pronounced linear pressure- and shear-ridges, as well as hummock fields, form along this boundary and are stabilized by grounding, generally between the 10- and 20-m isobaths. Slippage along this boundary occurs intermittently at or seaward of the grounded ridges, forming new grounded ridges in a widening zone, the stamukhi zone, which by late winter extends out to the 40-m isobath. Between intermittent events along the stamukhi zone, pack-ice drift and slippage is continuous along the shelf edge, at average rates of 3-10 km/day. Whether slippage occurs along the stamukhi zone or along the shelf edge, it is restricted to a zone several hundred meters wide, and ice seaward of the slip face moves at uniform rates without discernible drag effects. A causal relationship is seen between the spatial distribution of major ice-ridge systems and offshore shoals downdrift of major coastal promontories. The shoals appear to have migrated shoreward under the influence of ice up to 400 m in the last 25 years. The sea floor seaward of these shoals within the stamukhi zone shows high ice-gouge density, large incision depths, and a high degree of disruption of internal sedimentary structures. The concentration of large ice ridges and our sea floor data in the stamukhi zone indicate that much of the available marine energy is expended here, while the inner shelf and coast, where the relatively undeformed fast ice grows, are sheltered. There is evidence that anomalies in the overall arctic shelf profile are related to sea-ice zonation, ice dynamics, and bottom processes. A proposed ice zonation, including zones of (1) bottom-fast ice, (2) floating fast ice, (3) stamukhi, and (4) seasonal pack ice, emphasizes ice interaction with the shelf surface and differs from previous zonation. Certain aspects of the results reported here are directly applicable to planned offshore developments in the Prudhoe Bay oil field. Properly placed artificial structures similar to offshore shoals should be able to withstand the forces of the ice, serve to modify the observed ice zonation, and might be used to make the environment less hostile to human activities. ?? 1978.

Publication Year 1978
Title Arctic continental shelf morphology related to sea-ice zonation, Beaufort Sea, Alaska
Authors E. Reimnitz, L. Toimil, P. Barnes
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine Geology
Index ID 70012473
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse