Grounding-line retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet from inner Pine Island Bay
ABSTRACT Ice loss from the marine-based, potentially unstable West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) contributes to current sea-level rise and may raise sea level by <= 3.3 m or even <= 5 m in the future. Over the past few decades, glaciers draining the WAIS into the Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE) have shown accelerated ice flow, rapid thinning, and fast retreat of the grounding line (GL). However, the long-term context of this ice loss is poorly constrained, limiting our ability to accurately predict future WAIS behavior. Here we present a new chronology for WAIS retreat from the inner continental shelf of the eastern ASE, based on radiocarbon dates from three marine sediment cores. The ages document a retreat of the GL to within similar to 100 km of its modern position before ca. 10,000 calibrated (cal.) yr B.P. This early deglaciation is consistent with ages for GL retreat from the western ASE. Our new data demonstrate that, in contrast to the Ross Sea, WAIS retreat from the ASE shelf was largely complete by the start of the Holocene. Our results further suggest either slow GL retreat from the inner ASE shelf throughout the Holocene, or that any episodes of fast GL retreat must have been short-lived. Thus, today's rapid retreat may be exceptional during the Holocene and may originate in recent changes in regional climate, ocean circulation, or ice-sheet dynamics.
Full-textDOI: · Available from: Rachel Downey, May 30, 2015
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ABSTRACT: The geologic and morphologic records of prior ice sheet configurations show evidence of rapid, back-stepping, meltwater intensive retreats. However, the potential for such a retreat in a contemporary glacier depends on the lithology of the current ice sheet bed, which lies beneath kilometers of ice, making its physical properties difficult to constrain. We use radar sounding and marine bathymetry data to compare the bed configuration of Thwaites Glacier to the bed of paleo Pine Island Glacier. Using observed and modeled radar scattering, we show that the tributaries and upper trunk of Thwaites Glacier are underlain by ice-flow aligned bedforms consistent with deformable sediment and that the lower trunk is grounded on a region of high bed roughness consistent with outcropping bedrock. This is the same configuration as paleo Pine Island Glacier during its retreat across the inner continental shelf.10/2014; 41(20). DOI:10.1002/2014GL061645
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ABSTRACT: Glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE) account for > 35% of the total discharge of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and have thinned and retreated dramatically over the past two decades. Here we present detailed marine geological data and an extensive new radiocarbon dataset from the eastern ASE in order to constrain the retreat of the WAIS since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and assess the significance of these recent changes. Our dating approach, relying mainly on the acid insoluble organic (AIO) fraction, utilises multi-proxy analyses of the sediments to characterise their lithofacies and determine the horizon in each core that would yield the most reliable age for deglaciation. In total, we dated 69 samples and show that deglaciation of the outer shelf was underway before 20,600 calibrated years before present (cal yr BP), reaching the mid-shelf by 13,575 cal yr BP and the inner shelf to within ca. 150 km of the present grounding line by 10,615 cal yr BP. The timing of retreat is broadly consistent with previously published radiocarbon dates on biogenic carbonate from the eastern ASE as well as AIO 14C ages from the western ASE and provides new constraints for ice sheet models. The overall retreat trajectory - slow on the outer shelf, more rapid from the middle to inner shelf - clearly highlights the importance of reverse bedslopes in controlling phases of accelerated groundling line retreat. Despite revealing these broad scale trends, the current dataset does not capture detailed changes in ice flow, such as stillstands during grounding line retreat (i.e., deposition of grounding zone wedges) and possible readvances as depicted in the geomorphological record.Global and Planetary Change 08/2014; 122. DOI:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2014.07.015 · 3.71 Impact Factor
WAIS Workshop, Sterling, VA; 09/2013