Deglaciation of Pope Glacier implies widespread early Holocene ice sheet thinning in the Amundsen Sea sector of Antarctica.

The Amundsen Sea sector of the Antarctic ice sheet presently dominates the contribution from Antarctica to sea level rise. Several large ice streams that currently drain the sector have experienced rapid flow acceleration, grounding line retreat and thinning during the past few decades. However, little is known of their longer-term – millennial-scale – retreat history, despite the reliance of several ice sheet and glacial-isostatic adjustment models on such data for improving sea level prediction from this critical region. This study investigates the timing and extent of surface lowering of one of those ice streams, Pope Glacier, since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), using glacial-geological evidence for former ice cover. We present a new deglacial chronology for the glacier, derived from surface exposure dating of glacially-deposited cobbles and ice-scoured bedrock from Mount Murphy and its surrounding peaks. Cosmogenic 10Be exposure ages from 44 erratic cobbles and 5 bedrock samples, and in situ 14C exposure ages from one erratic and 8 bedrock samples are predominantly in the range 5.5-16 ka. Although 10Be inheritance from prior exposure is prevalent in some erratics and probably all bedrock samples, none of the ages pre-date the LGM. From these results we infer that the surface of Pope Glacier lowered by 560 m during the early- to mid-Holocene (9-6 ka), at an average rate of 0.13 ± 0.09/0.04 m yr−1. The lowering coincided with a period of enhanced upwelling of warm Circumpolar Deep Water onto the continental shelf in the region. A reduction in buttressing − facilitated by such upwelling − by an ice shelf that is thought to have spanned the embayment until 10.6 cal kyr BP could have triggered simultaneous early Holocene thinning of Pope Glacier and glaciers elsewhere in the Amundsen Sea Embayment.


Publication status:
Authors: Johnson, Joanne S. ORCIDORCID record for Joanne S. Johnson, Roberts, Stephen J. ORCIDORCID record for Stephen J. Roberts, Rood, Dylan H., Pollard, David, Schaefer, Joerg M., Whitehouse, Pippa L., Ireland, Louise C. ORCIDORCID record for Louise C. Ireland, Lamp, Jennifer L., Goehring, Brent M., Rand, Cari, Smith, James A. ORCIDORCID record for James A. Smith

On this site: James Smith, Joanne Johnson, Louise Ireland, Stephen Roberts
15 October, 2020
Earth & Planetary Science Letters / 548
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