Last glacial-interglacial sea-ice cover in the SW Atlantic and its potential role in global deglaciation

Sea-ice growth and decay in Antarctica is one of the biggest seasonal changes on Earth, expanding ice cover from 4 106 km2 to a maximum of 19 106 km2 during the austral winter. Analyses of six marine sediment cores from the Scotia Sea, SW Atlantic, yield records of sea-ice migration across the basin since the Lateglacial. The cores span nearly ten degrees of latitude from the modern seasonal sea-ice zone to the modern Polar Front. Surface sediments in the cores comprise predominantly diatomaceous oozes and muddy diatom oozes that reflect Holocene conditions. The cores exhibit similar down-core stratigraphies with decreasing diatom concentrations and increasing magnetic susceptibility from modern through to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Sediments in all cores contain sea-ice diatoms that preserve a signal of changing sea-ice cover and permit reconstruction of past sea-ice dynamics. The sea-ice records presented here are the first to document the position of both the summer and winter sea-ice cover at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in the Scotia Sea. Comparison of the LGM and Holocene sea-ice conditions shows that the average winter sea-ice extent was at least 5 further north at the LGM. Average summer sea-ice extent was south of the most southerly core site at the LGM, and suggests that sea-ice expanded from approximatelyw61S tow52S each season. Our data also suggest that the average summer sea-ice position at the LGM was not the maximum extent of summer sea-ice during the last glacial. Instead, the sediments contain evidence of a pre-LGM maximum extent of summer sea-ice between w30 ka and 22 ka that extended to w59S, close to the modern average winter sea-ice limit. Based on our reconstruction we propose that the timing of the maximum extent of summer sea-ice and subsequent retreat by 22 ka, could be insolation controlled and that the strong links between sea-ice and bottom water formation provide a potential mechanism by which Southern Hemisphere regional sea-ice dynamics at the LGM could have a global impact and promote deglaciation.


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Authors: Allen, Claire ORCIDORCID record for Claire Allen, Pike, Jennifer, Pudsey, Carol J.

On this site: Claire Allen
1 January, 2011
Quaternary Science Reviews / 30
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