Ice-sheet expansion from the Ross Sea into McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, during the last two glaciations

TitleIce-sheet expansion from the Ross Sea into McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, during the last two glaciations
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsHeath, S, Hall, BL, Denton, GH, Henderson, GM, Hendy, CH
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Date PublishedJan-02-2022

An understanding of Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) behavior is important for future sea-level predictions. Here, we examine past ice-sheet history in the McMurdo Sound region of the western Ross Sea over the last two glacial-interglacial cycles in order to gain insight into the drivers of ice-sheet change. Surficial mapping, along with radiocarbon dates of lacustrine algae and uranium-thorium disequilibrium dates of lacustrine carbonates from ice-dammed lakes, allow reconstruction of the timing and origin of grounded ice in McMurdo Sound during the last glacial maximum (LGM) and penultimate glaciation. During the LGM, ice-surface elevation profiles and distribution of erratics indicate ice flow into southern McMurdo Sound from the Ross Sea, rather than seaward expansion of local glaciers from the Royal Society Range. The grounded ice in McMurdo Sound flowed westward to block the mouths of valleys in the Royal Society Range and to dam proglacial lakes. In Marshall Valley, maximum ice extent during what is termed the Ross Sea glaciation, was achieved by 18 ka and remained close to this position until after 14 ka. The pattern of surficial deposits suggests that ice during the penultimate glaciation, locally named the Marshall glaciation, was slightly more extensive than that of the LGM but had a similar Ross Sea origin. Maximum ice extent in Marshall Valley occurred at ∼145–150 ka; the grounded ice may have receded from the valley mouth shortly after 138 ka. Both ice expansions occurred broadly during times of low Antarctic air temperatures, which have been linked to insolation minima. However, the lack of widespread surface melting ablation zones on the AIS indicates that the link between ice expansion and orbital forcing is likely to be indirect and possibly driven through the ocean. Closer examination of the precise timing of the glacial maxima in Marshall Valley shows that the Marshall glaciation occurred synchronously with the penultimate global maximum; ice recession took place during Termination II. In contrast, maximum ice extent during the Ross Sea glaciation along the Royal Society Range occurred after the global LGM, during Termination I. Deglaciation was primarily an early Holocene event. We attribute this delayed maximum and deglaciation (relative to global events) to the effect of rising accumulation on ice-sheet mass balance.