Aerogravity evidence for major crustal thinning under the Pine Island Glacier region (West Antarctica)
The West Antarctic Rift System provides critical geological boundary conditions for the overlying West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Previous geophysical surveys have traced the West Antarctic Rift System and addressed the controls that it exerts on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in the Ross Sea Embayment. However, much less is known about the rift system under the Amundsen Sea Embayment, a key sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is thinning significantly today. New aerogravity data over the Pine Island Glacier region, one of the fastest flowing glaciers within the Amundsen Sea Embayment, sheds new light into the crustal structure under this dynamic part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Three-dimensional (3-D) inversion of terrain-decorrelated free-air and Bouguer gravity anomaly data reveal significant crustal thinning beneath the catchment of Pine Island Glacier. Under the Byrd Subglacial Basin and the newly identified Pine Island Rift, Moho depth is estimated to be 19 ± 1 km. This is the thinnest crust observed beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Estimates of lithosphere rigidity (Te), based on isostatic models, yield a Te of 5 ± 5 km, which is comparable to values from modern rift systems such as the Basin and Range Province. Major crustal thinning, coupled with low lithosphere rigidity, attest to the considerable impact of continental rifting beneath this part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. In analogy with the better known Ross Sea segment of the West Antarctic Rift System we suggest that the Amundsen Sea Embayment was affected by distributed Cretaceous rifting, followed by Cenozoic narrow-mode rifting. Narrow-mode rifting within the Pine Island Rift is particularly important as it may serve as a geological template for enhanced glacial flow associated with Pine Island Glacier.
Authors: Jordan, Tom ORCID record for Tom Jordan, Ferraccioli, Fausto, Vaughan, David ORCID record for David Vaughan, holt, J.W., Corr, Hugh, Blakenship, D.D., Diehl, T.M.