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Ballesteros, D., M. Jiménez-Sánchez, S. Giralt, I. DeFelipe, and J. García-Sansegundo (2017), Glacial origin for cave rhythmite during MIS 5d-c in a glaciokarst landscape, Picos de Europa (Spain), Geomorphology, 286, 68-77, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2017.03.014.


Laminated slackwater deposits have been identified in many karst caves related to fluvial and lacustrine sedimentation. However, sedimentological evidence rarely supports a glacial origin for these deposits, which was proposed by previous studies. The Torca La Texa shaft is located in a glaciokarst area that comprises numerous slackwater-type deposits, piled up in fining-upward sequences. A basal sandy erosive layer and millimeter-sized laminated rhythmite with interbedded flowstone characterize these sequences. Fining-upward layers of carbonate silt, clay, and minor quartz sand deposited in flooded conduits define the rhythmite lamination. The presence of allochthonous minerals indicates that the rhythmite sediment comes from the glacial erosion of nearby carbonate mountains. Two 234U/230Th radiometric ages dated the rhythmite deposits around 109 and 95 ka, coinciding with relative cold periods included in the MIS 5d-c. These cold periods were marked by a high annual seasonality, immediately after the glacial local maximum extension, in agreement with a varve-type deposit. The combination of these sedimentological mineralogical, geomorphological and paleoclimate information indicates that the rhythmite should be introduced into the studied cave during the summer melting of the glaciers, which produced the recharge of the karst aquifer, triggering cave floods. In addition, punctual glacier collapses would also have their imprint in the slackwater sequences with thicker, coarser and erosive sand deposits and the spring blocking by glaciers may have promoted floods inside the cave. Therefore, the studied rhythmite can be interpreted as glacial varves decanted during the relatively cold climate conditions.

Reference paper