Antarctic sedimentary basins and their influence on ice-sheet dynamics

Knowledge of Antarctica’s sedimentary basins builds our understanding of the coupled evolution of tectonics, ice, ocean, and climate. Sedimentary basins have properties distinct from basement-dominated regions that impact ice-sheet dynamics, potentially influencing future ice-sheet change. Despite their importance, our knowledge of Antarctic sedimentary basins is restricted. Remoteness, the harsh environment, the overlying ice sheet, ice shelves and sea ice all make fieldwork challenging. Nonetheless, in the past decade the geophysics community has made great progress in internationally coordinated data collection and compilation with parallel advances in data processing and analysis supporting a new insight into Antarctica’s subglacial environment. Here, we summarize recent progress in understanding Antarctica’s sedimentary basins. We review advances in the technical capability of radar, potential fields, seismic and electromagnetic techniques to detect and characterize basins beneath ice and advances in integrated multi-data interpretation including machine-learning approaches. These new capabilities permit a continent-wide mapping of Antarctica’s sedimentary basins and their characteristics, aiding definition of the tectonic development of the continent. Crucially, Antarctica’s sedimentary basins interact with the overlying ice sheet through dynamic feedbacks that have the potential to contribute to rapid ice-sheet change. Looking ahead, future research directions include techniques to increase data coverage within logistical constraints, and resolving major knowledge gaps, including insufficient sampling of the ice-sheet bed and poor definition of subglacial basin structure and stratigraphy. Translating the knowledge of sedimentary basin processes into ice-sheet modelling studies is critical to underpin better capacity to predict future change.


Publication status:
Authors: Aitken, A.R.A., Li, L., Kulessa, B., Schroeder, D., Jordan, T.A. ORCIDORCID record for T.A. Jordan, Whittaker, J.M., Anadakrishnan, S., Dawson, E.J., Wiens, D.A., Eisen, O., Siegert, M.J.

On this site: Tom Jordan
1 September, 2023
Reviews of Geophysics / 61
Link to published article: