Dynamics Of The Late Plio-Pleistocene West Antarctic Ice Sheet Documented In Subglacial Diamictites, AND-1B Drill Core

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Ellen A. Cowan Ph.D, Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: https://library.appstate.edu/

Abstract: Geologic studies of sediment deposited by glaciers can provide crucial insights into the subglacial environment. We studied muddy diamictites in the ANtarctic geological DRILLing (ANDRILL) AND-1B drill core, acquired from beneath the Ross Ice Shelf in McMurdo Sound, with the aim of identifying paleo-ice stream activity in the Plio– Pleistocene. Glacial advances were identified from glacial surfaces of erosion (GSEs) and subglacial diamictites within three complete sequences were investigated using lithofacies associations, micromorphology, and quartz sand grain microtextures. Whereas conditions in the Late Pliocene resemble the modern Greenland Ice Sheet where fast flowing glaciers lubricated by surface meltwater terminate directly in the sea (interval 201–212 mbsl) conditions in the Late Pleistocene are similar to modern West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) ice streams (38–49 mbsl). We identify the latter from ductile deformation and high pore-water pressure, which resulted in pervasive rotation and formation of till pellets and low relief, rounded sand grains dominated by abrasion. In the transitional period during the Mid-Pleistocene (55–68 mbsf), a slow moving inland ice sheet deposited tills with brittle deformation, producing lineations and bi-masepic and unistrial plasma fabric, along with high relief, conchoidally fractured quartz grains. Changes in the provenance of gravel to cobble-size clasts support a distant source area of Byrd Glacier for fast-flowing paleo-ice streams and a proximal area between Darwin and Skelton Glaciers for the slow-moving inland ice sheet. This difference in till provenance documents a shift in direction of glacial flow at the core site, which indirectly reflects changes in the size and thickness of the WAIS. Hence, we found that fast ice streaming motion is a consequence of a thicker WAIS pushing flow lines to the west and introducing clasts from the Byrd Glacier source area to the drill site. The detailed analysis of diamictites inAND-1B demonstrates that Pliocene glacial intervals were warmer than in the Pleistocene when polar ice sheets grew from local inland ice to regional ice streams.

Additional Information

Cowan, E., Christoffersen, P., Powell, R., & Talarico, F. (2014). Dynamics of the late Plio–Pleistocene West Antarctic Ice Sheet documented in subglacial diamictites, AND-1B drill core, Global and Planetary Change, Volume 119, 2014, Pages 56-70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2014.05.011. Publisher version of record available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0921818114001064
Language: English
Date: 2014
Subglacial till, Deformable bed, Micromorphology, Ice stream, Pleistocene, Ross Sea

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