Marine sediment cores were obtained from in front of the Müller Ice Shelf in Lallemand Fjord, Antarctic Peninsula in the austral summer of 1990–91. Sedimentological and geochemical data from these cores document a warm period that preceded the advance of the Müller Ice Shelf into Lallemand Fjord. The advance of the ice shelf is inferred from a reduction in the total organic carbon content and an increase in well-sorted, aeolian, sand in cores proximal to the present calving line. This sedimentological change is paralleled by a change in the foraminiferal assemblages within the cores. Advance of the ice shelf is indicated by a shift from assemblages dominated by calcareous benthic and planktonic forms to those dominated by agglutinated forms. A 14C chronology for the cores indicates that the advance of the Müller Ice Shelf took place c. 400 years ago, coincident with glacier advances in other high southern latitude sites during the onset of the Little Ice Age. Ice core evidence, however, documents this period as one of warmer temperatures for the Antarctic Peninsula. We suggest that the ice shelf advance was linked to the exclusion of circumpolar deep water from the fjord. This contributed to increased mass balance of the ice shelf system by preventing the rapid undermelt that is today associated with warm circumpolar deep water within the fjord. We also document the recent retreat of the calving line of the Müller Ice Shelf that is apparently in response to a recent (four decade long) warming trend along the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula.
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