Cryogenic cave minerals recorded 1889 CE melt event in northeast Greenland
Abstract. The investigation of cryogenic cave minerals (CCMs) has developed in recent decades to be a particularly valuable proxy for palaeo-permafrost reconstruction. Due to difficulties, however, in obtaining reliable chronologies with the so-called “fine” form of these minerals, such studies have thus far utilised the “coarse” form. In this study, we successfully investigate the northernmost-known deposit of fine-grained cryogenic cave minerals (CCMs), which are situated in Cove Cave (Greenlandic translation: Eqik Qaarusussuaq), a low-elevation permafrost cave in northeast Greenland (80° N). The Cove Cave CCMs display a complex mineralogy that consists of fine-grained cryogenic cave carbonates (CCCfine) as well as sulphate minerals (gypsum, eugsterite, mirabilite, and löweite). In comparison to CCCfine from the mid-latitudes, positive δ13C values (7.0 to 11.4 ‰) recorded in Cove Cave are similar. In contrast, Cove Cave CCCfine δ18O values are ca. 8 to 16 ‰ lower. Furthermore, despite previous CCCfine dating efforts being unsuccessful, here we demonstrate that precise dating is possible with both isochron-based 230Th/U dating and 14C dating if the dead carbon fraction is reliably known.
The dating result (65 ± 17 a BP; 1885 ± 17 CE) shows that the CCMs formed during the late Little Ice Age, a time interval characterised by cold temperatures and abundant permafrost in northeast Greenland, making water infiltration into Cove Cave dependent on water amount and latent heat. We relate the CCM formation to a combination of black carbon deposition and anomalously high temperatures, which occurred over a few days, in the summer of 1889 CE. Such extreme conditions led to widespread melting over large areas of the Greenland ice sheet. We propose that the anomalous (weather) conditions of 1889 CE also affected northeast Greenland, where the enhanced melting of a local ice cap resulted in water entering the cave and rapidly freezing. While CCCfine and gypsum likely precipitated concurrently with freezing, the origin of the other sulphate minerals might not be purely cryogenic but could be linked to subsequent sublimation of this ice accumulation in the very dry cave environment.
Anika Donner et al.
Status: final response (author comments only)
RC1: 'Comment on cp-2022-97', Anonymous Referee #1, 15 Mar 2023
- AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Anika Donner, 31 May 2023
RC2: 'Comment on cp-2022-97', Connor Turvey, 28 Mar 2023
- AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Anika Donner, 31 May 2023
RC3: 'Comment on cp-2022-97', Anonymous Referee #3, 04 Apr 2023
- AC3: 'Reply on RC3', Anika Donner, 31 May 2023
Anika Donner et al.
Anika Donner et al.
Viewed (geographical distribution)
In this paper, the authors present evidence of fine-grained cryogenic cave minerals (CCMs) found in Cove Cave in northeast Greenland. They provide evidence for their ability to date these fine-grained CCMs, unlike previous studies, and ultimately demonstrate that these CCMs likely formed during a short, but extreme, melting event on the Greenland Ice Sheet in 1889, which would have provided sufficient liquid water in the cave to form these minerals.
I’m not an expert in geochemistry, or dating, so my review is general and focuses mainly on the plausibility of the 1889 melting event on the Greenland Ice Sheet providing sufficient meltwater to the Cove Cave system.
Line 21: add ‘Cove Cave’ before ‘CCMs’ here to let the reader know you’re talking specifically about the Cove Cave CCMs again here
Line 25: why is ‘weather’ in parentheses here? I’d suggest removing the parentheses
Lines 53-56: for ease of reading, I suggest breaking this up into two sentences like ‘…in northeast Greenland. Cove Cave is currently…’
Line 68: remove ‘therefore’
Line 258: ‘sublime’ here should be ‘sublimated’
Line 294: a comma is needed after ‘than’
Line 297: ‘were’ should be ‘where’ here
Figure 1: are the blue lines indicating ice margins referring to present-day ice margins, or ice margins from the former presence of additional ice caps that are mentioned in the last sentence of the figure caption?
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