Abrupt Holocene ice loss due to thinning and ungrounding in the Weddell Sea Embayment

The extent of grounded ice and buttressing by the Ronne Ice Shelf, which provides resistance to the outflow of ice streams, moderate West Antarctic Ice Sheet stability. During the Last Glacial Maximum, the ice sheet advanced and was grounded near the Weddell Sea continental shelf break. The timing of subsequent ice sheet retreat and the relative roles of ice shelf buttressing and grounding line changes remain unresolved. Here we use an ice core record from grounded ice at Skytrain Ice Rise to constrain the timing and speed of early Holocene ice sheet retreat. Measured δ18O and total air content suggest that the surface elevation of Skytrain Ice Rise decreased by about 450 m between 8.2 and 8.0 kyr before 1950 CE (±0.13 kyr). We attribute this elevation change to dynamic thinning due to flow changes induced by the ungrounding of ice in the area. Ice core sodium concentrations suggest that the ice front of this ungrounded ice shelf then retreated about 270 km (±30 km) from 7.7 to 7.3 kyr before 1950 CE. These centennial-scale changes demonstrate how quickly ice mass can be lost from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet due to changes in grounded ice without extensive ice shelf calving. Our findings both support and temporally constrain ice sheet models that exhibit rapid ice loss in the Weddell Sea sector in the early Holocene.


Publication status:
Authors: Grieman, Mackenzie M., Nehrbass-Ahles, Christoph, Hoffmann, Helene M., Bauska, Thomas K. ORCIDORCID record for Thomas K. Bauska, King, Amy C.F. ORCIDORCID record for Amy C.F. King, Mulvaney, Robert ORCIDORCID record for Robert Mulvaney, Rhodes, Rachael H., Rowell, Isobel F., Thomas, Elizabeth R. ORCIDORCID record for Elizabeth R. Thomas, Wolff, Eric W.

On this site: Amy King, Liz Thomas, Robert Mulvaney, Thomas Bauska
8 February, 2024
Nature Geoscience
Link to published article: