A temperate former West Antarctic ice sheet suggested by an extensive zone of bed channels
Several recent studies predict that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will become increasingly unstable under warmer conditions. Insights on such change can be assisted through investigations of the subglacial landscape, which contains imprints of former ice-sheet behavior. Here, we present radio-echo sounding data and satellite imagery revealing a series of ancient large sub-parallel subglacial bed channels preserved in the region between the Möller and Foundation Ice Streams, West Antarctica. We suggest that these newly recognized channels were formed by significant meltwater routed along the icesheet bed. The volume of water required is likely substantial and can most easily be explained by water generated at the ice surface. The Greenland Ice Sheet today exemplifies how significant seasonal surface melt can be transferred to the bed via englacial routing. For West Antarctica, the Pliocene (2.6–5.3 Ma) represents the most recent sustained period when temperatures could have been high enough to generate surface melt comparable to that of present-day Greenland. We propose, therefore, that a temperate ice sheet covered this location during Pliocene warm periods.
Authors: Rose, Kathryn C., Ross, Neil, Bingham, Robert G., Corr, Hugh F.J., Ferraccioli, Fausto, Jordan, Tom A., Le Brocq, Anne, Rippin, David M., Siegert, Martin J.