Better methods for interpreting grain-size spectra will enhance current understanding of past transport-depositional processes. A high-resolution inorganic grain-size dataset has been measured from a freeze core extracted from ‘Alberta Lake E’ a boreal fresh water lake 40 km east of the Athabasca Oil Sands in north-eastern Alberta, Canada. The grain-size spectra are remarkably consistent throughout the core, exhibiting a structure comprising six persistent grain-size distributions below ca 250 μm, plus a rare medium-sand distribution. Automated deconvolution of the grain-size spectra produced poor results. Constraining the modes of two of the distributions produced deconvolution solutions that were statistically excellent and consistent with the structure of each spectrum. Statistical analysis of the ‘constrained’ solutions indicates that deconvolution successfully extracted independent grain-size populations. Conversely, the multimodal spectra generate traditional measures (for example, mean grain size) that are inconsistent combinations of different individual populations and thus are poor proxies of transport-depositional processes. Alberta Lake E is situated in a boreal wetland landscape where sediment delivery is dominated by overland flow transport during spring melt. This context means that the Alberta Lake E grain-size spectra can be interpreted to reflect: (i) a bedload component transported during short-duration high discharge events that reflect the intensity of the melt; and (ii) a finer suspended load component representing material whose magnitude is controlled by the volume of the spring melt. Stratigraphically, bedload and suspended load populations demonstrate different short-wavelength and long-wavelength cyclicity, suggesting that spring melt is likely to be driven by cyclic external forcing factors. The links between the grain-size spectra and spring melt have potential for generating proxy records that better capture the external controls over spring melt in boreal systems and the risks associated with these energetic hydrodynamics. This is exemplified by the coarsest Alberta Lake E distributions, which indicate that more intense spring-melt dynamics occurred in pre-historical times.

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Keywords Boreal lake, Grain-size analysis, Parametric curve fitting, Sedimentology, Spring melt, Stratigraphy
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Journal Sedimentology
Gammon, P.R. (Paul R.), Neville, L.A. (Lisa A.), Patterson, T, Savard, M.M. (Martine M.), & Swindles, G.T. (Graeme T.). (2017). A log-normal spectral analysis of inorganic grain-size distributions from a Canadian boreal lake core: Towards refining depositional process proxy data from high latitude lakes. Sedimentology, 64(3), 609–630. doi:10.1111/sed.12281