Interactions between local glaciers and adjacent grounded Ross Sea ice in the Royal Society Range, Antarctica

TitleInteractions between local glaciers and adjacent grounded Ross Sea ice in the Royal Society Range, Antarctica
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
AuthorsMiles, M, Hall, B, Denton, G
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Date Published04/2024
KeywordsAlpine glaciers, Antarctica, Be exposure age dating, Last glacial maximum, radiocarbon, Ross Sea

The Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) has the potential to exert a major control on future global sea level. Here, we gain insight into the response of the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) to changing climate through assessment of ice-sheet behavior during and since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) along the western coast of McMurdo Sound. We examine whether expansion of grounded ice in this sector of the Ross Embayment during the last glaciation was caused by increased flux from East Antarctic outlets and local glaciers or was produced by marine influences, such as lowered sea level or reduced melting of submarine grounded ice. During the LGM, grounded ice derived from the Ross Sea deposited a well-defined drift sheet along the Royal Society headlands on the western coast of McMurdo Sound. Twenty-six new radiocarbon dates of subfossil algae within this drift sheet suggest that the ice sheet was at its maximum extent by at least ∼18.4 ka and maintained this position for about five thousand years. Cross-cutting relationships show that local alpine glaciers did not contribute to the grounded ice but rather fluctuated asynchronously. This same relationship held true during the penultimate glaciation, dated to roughly 137–191 ka with 10Be exposure ages. An explanation for this out-of-phase relationship is that different mechanisms controlled their respective extents. Because they lack significant surface melting ablation zones, the local alpine glaciers, which largely terminate on land, were driven by changes in accumulation. These glaciers likely expanded during warmer times when accumulation was higher. In contrast, marine factors, such as global sea-level change and/or subglacial melting, controlled ice fluctuations in the Ross Embayment, including McMurdo Sound, leading to advance during the LGM.