Antarctic sea ice over the past 130 000 years, Part 1: A review of what proxy records tell us

Antarctic sea ice plays a critical role in the Earth system, influencing energy, heat and freshwater fluxes, air–sea gas exchange, ice shelf dynamics, ocean circulation, nutrient cycling, marine productivity and global carbon cycling. However, accurate simulation of recent sea-ice changes remains challenging and, therefore, projecting future sea-ice changes and their influence on the global climate system is uncertain. Reconstructing past changes in sea-ice cover can provide additional insights into climate feedbacks within the Earth system at different timescales. This paper is the first of two review papers from the Cycles of Sea Ice Dynamics in the Earth system (C-SIDE) working group. In this first paper, we review marine- and ice core-based sea-ice proxies and reconstructions of sea-ice changes throughout the last glacial–interglacial cycle. Antarctic sea-ice reconstructions rely mainly on diatom fossil assemblages and highly branched isoprenoid (HBI) alkenes in marine sediments, supported by chemical proxies in Antarctic ice cores. Most reconstructions for the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) suggest that winter sea ice expanded all around Antarctica and covered almost twice its modern surface extent. In contrast, LGM summer sea ice expanded mainly in the regions off the Weddell and Ross seas. The difference between winter and summer sea ice during the LGM led to a larger seasonal cycle than today. More recent efforts have focused on reconstructing Antarctic sea ice during warm periods, such as the Holocene and the Last Interglacial (LIG), which may serve as an analogue for the future. Notwithstanding regional heterogeneities, existing reconstructions suggest that sea-ice cover increased from the warm mid-Holocene to the colder Late Holocene with pervasive decadal- to millennial-scale variability throughout the Holocene. Studies, supported by proxy modelling experiments, suggest that sea-ice cover was halved during the warmer LIG when global average temperatures were ∼2 ∘C above the pre-industrial (PI). There are limited marine (14) and ice core (4) sea-ice proxy records covering the complete 130 000 year (130 ka) last glacial cycle. The glacial–interglacial pattern of sea-ice advance and retreat appears relatively similar in each basin of the Southern Ocean. Rapid retreat of sea ice occurred during Terminations II and I while the expansion of sea ice during the last glaciation appears more gradual especially in ice core data sets. Marine records suggest that the first prominent expansion occurred during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 4 and that sea ice reached maximum extent during MIS 2. We, however, note that additional sea-ice records and transient model simulations are required to better identify the underlying drivers and feedbacks of Antarctic sea-ice changes over the last 130 ka. This understanding is critical to improve future predictions.


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Authors: Crosta, Xavier, Kohfeld, Karen E., Bostock, Helen C., Chadwick, Matthew ORCIDORCID record for Matthew Chadwick, Du Vivier, Alice, Esper, Oliver, Etourneau, Johan, Jones, Jacob, Leventer, Amy, Müller, Juliane, Rhodes, Rachel H., Allen, Claire S. ORCIDORCID record for Claire S. Allen, Ghadi, Pooja, Lamping, Nele, Lange, Carina, Lawler, Kelly-Anne, Lund, David, Marzocchi, Alice, Meissner, Katrin J., Menviel, Laurie, Nair, Abhilash, Patterson, Molly, Pike, Jennifer, Prebble, Joseph G., Riesselman, Christina, Sadatzki, Henrik, Sime, Louise C. ORCIDORCID record for Louise C. Sime, Shukla, Sunil K., Thöle, Lena, Vorrath, Maria-Elena, Xiao, Wenshen, Yang, Jiao

On this site: Claire Allen, Louise Sime, Matthew Chadwick
2 August, 2022
Climate of the Past / 18
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