Marine Science Faculty Publications

Palaeo-ice Stream Pathways and Retreat Style in the Easternmost Amundsen Sea Embayment, West Antarctica, Revealed by Combined Multibeam Bathymetric and Seismic Data

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West Antarctic Ice Sheet, Glacial landforms, Subglacial geology, Basal thermal regime, Ice streams, Inter-ice stream ridge, Ice sheet retreat, Grounding-zone wedge, Abbot Ice Shelf

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Multibeam swath bathymetry data sets collected over the past two decades have been compiled to identify palaeo-ice stream pathways in the easternmost Amundsen Sea Embayment. We mapped ~ 3000 glacial landforms to reconstruct ice flow in the ~ 250-km-long cross-shelf Abbot Trough. This bathymetric feature was occupied by a large ice stream, which was fed by two tributaries (Cosgrove and Abbot) and reached the continental shelf edge during the last maximum ice sheet advance. Geomorphological mapping has enabled a clear differentiation between subglacial landforms indicating warm- (e.g., megascale glacial lineations) and cold-based (e.g., hill–hole pairs) ice conditions on the continental shelf during the last glaciation. Grounding-zone wedges and recessional moraines, mapped within the palaeo-ice stream troughs and on adjacent sea-floor highs (referred to as inter-ice stream ridges) indicate grounding line stillstands or re-advances of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet during the last deglaciation of the shelf. We observe that the locations of grounding-zone wedges coincide with trough constrictions as well as local topographic highs of harder substrate. This combination of trough ‘bottlenecks’ and local pinning points on an otherwise retrograde slope is likely to have modified the pace of grounding-line retreat, causing the grounding zone to pause and deposit grounding-zone wedges. The episodic retreat recorded within Abbot Trough corresponds to post-glacial episodic retreat interpreted for the neighbouring Pine Island–Thwaites palaeo-ice stream trough, thus suggesting a uniform pattern of retreat across the eastern Amundsen Sea Embayment. Locally, indications are strong that a change in basal thermal regime of the ice from warm- to cold-based conditions occurred prior to final retreat, as hill–hole pairs overprint megascale glacial lineations. Further, the correlation of grounding-zone wedges with geological boundaries emphasises the influence of subglacial geology on ice stream flow. Our new geomorphological map of the easternmost Amundsen Sea Embayment resolves the pathways of palaeo-ice streams that were probably all active during the last maximum extent of the ice sheet, and the extent of adjacent inter-ice stream ridges. It reveals information about the style of, and the basal thermal regime during, the subsequent grounding line retreat. Such information provides an important empirical framework by which the accuracy of ice sheet models can be gauged.

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Geomorphology, v. 245, p. 207-222