A Quaternary record of fine-grained sediment composition is used to investigate Arctic Ocean climate variability on glacial–interglacial time scales. Diffuse spectral reflectance data from sediment core P1-92AR-P25 from the Northwind Ridge, north of Alaska, demonstrates cyclic variations in mineralogy. Varimaxrotated R-mode factor analysis of down-core data revealed three major mineralogical assemblages, which were then compared with the content of manganese, a proxy for basin ventilation, and thus glacial–interglacial cycles. Results indicate that factor 1, a smectite + chlorite clay assemblage, was delivered to the core site during interglacials, either by fluvial discharge or sea-ice drift from Siberian rivers or inflow from the Bering Sea. Factor 2, an illite + goethite assemblage, is related to glacial periods, and was probably transported from the Laurentide Ice Sheet by icebergs or meltwater. Factor 3, glauconite, might have been sourced from the North Slope region of Alaska during deglacial intervals, or from dolomites associated with Laurentide iceberg-discharge pulses. The observed variations in sediment source and transport mechanisms arise from glacial–interglacial changes in sea level, the size of the terrestrial ice sheets surrounding the Arctic Ocean, the extent of sea-ice cover and altered atmospheric circulation. The reconstructed glacial– interglacial circulation patterns from the Late Quaternary show some similarity with modern circulation changes presumably related to the monthly- to decadally-fluctuating Arctic Oscillation. However, because the Arctic Oscillation operates on much shorter time scales, further research is necessary to better understand the driving mechanism for the changes observed over glacial– interglacial cycles, and the potential role of ocean–atmospheric interaction.
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