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Repeated Pleistocene glaciation of the East Siberian continental margin


During the Pleistocene glaciations, Arctic ice sheets on western Eurasia, Greenland and North America terminated at their continental margins1,2,3,4. In contrast, the exposed continental shelves in the Beringian region of Siberia are thought to have been covered by a tundra landscape5,6,7. Evidence of grounded ice on seafloor ridges and plateaux off the coast of the Beringian margin, at depths of up to 1,000 m, have generally been attributed to ice shelves or giant icebergs that spread oceanwards during glacial maxima8,9,10,11,12. Here we identify marine glaciogenic landforms visible in seismic profiles and detailed bathymetric maps along the East Siberian continental margin. We interpret these features, which occur in present water depths of up to 1,200 m, as traces from grounding events of ice sheets and ice shelves. We conclude that the Siberian Shelf edge and parts of the Arctic Ocean were covered by ice sheets of about 1 km in thickness during several Pleistocene glaciations before the most recent glacial period, which must have had a significant influence on albedo and oceanic and atmospheric circulation.

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Figure 1: Proposed maximum extent of an ice sheet on the East Siberian continental margin (ESCM), Pleistocene ice sheets in the Arctic and area of investigation.
Figure 2: Evidence of grounded ice and glacial sedimentation on the Arlis Plateau (Fig. 1).
Figure 3: Glaciogenic fans and SGL on the East Siberian continental slope.
Figure 4: Glaciogenic facies and moraines on the East Siberian continental slope.


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We are grateful for the support of the captains and crews of the RV Polarstern and RV Araon during the cruises ARK-XXIII/3 and ARA03B, respectively. We thank S. Hanisch, O. Thomas and J. Collins for improvement of text and figures. This publication is a contribution to the research programme PACES, topic 3 (Lessons from the Past) of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar und Marine Research (AWI) and the projects K-PORT (PM11080) and K-Polar (PP13030) of the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI). This research was financially supported by AWI, KOPRI and MOF of Korea.

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Authors and Affiliations



F.N. participated in both expeditions in 2008 and 2012, interpreted the hydro-acoustic data and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. J.K.H. led the bathymetric survey on RV Araon, A.H. processed and plotted the seismic multichannel data. H.K. acquired and processed multibeam data on RV Araon, S.K. compiled bathymetric data of KOPRI and conducted image processing. L.J. acquired and processed multibeam data on RV Polarstern and carried out image processing. J.M. contributed to Parasound data acquisition on RV Polarstern, R.S. and W.J. led the geological and geophysical data acquisition, respectively, on RV Polarstern and S-I.N. led the geological data acquisition on RV Araon. All authors contributed to writing the paper and analysing the results. S-H.K. led the K-PORT project and contributed to the geophysical survey on RV Araon.

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Correspondence to Frank Niessen or Jong Kuk Hong.

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Niessen, F., Hong, J., Hegewald, A. et al. Repeated Pleistocene glaciation of the East Siberian continental margin. Nature Geosci 6, 842–846 (2013).

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