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Late Wisconsin and Early Holocene Glacial History, Inner Ross Embayment, Antarctica

  • George H. Denton (a1), James G. Bockheim (a2), Scott C. Wilson (a2) and Minze Stuiver (a3)


Lateral drift sheets of outlet glaciers that pass through the Transantarctic Mountains constrain past changes of the huge Ross ice drainage system of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Drift stratigraphy suggests correlation of Reedy III (Reedy Glacier), Beardmore (Beardmore Glacier), Britannia (Hatherton/Darwin Glaciers), Ross Sea (McMurdo Sound), and “younger” (Terra Nova Bay) drifts; radiocarbon dates place the outer limits of Ross Sea drift in late Wisconsin time at 24,000–13,000 yr B.P. Outlet-glacier profiles from these drifts constrain late Wisconsin ice-sheet surface elevations. Within these constraints, we give two extreme late Wisconsin reconstructions of the Ross ice drainage system. Both show little elevation change of the polar plateau coincident with extensive ice-shelf grounding along the inner Ross Embayment. However, in the central Ross Embayment one reconstruction shows floating shelf ice, whereas the other shows a grounded ice sheet. Massive late Wisconsin/Holocene recession of grounded ice from the western Ross Embayment, which was underway at 13,040 yr B.P. and completed by 6600-6020 yr B.P., was accompanied by little change in plateau ice levels inland of the Transantarctic Mountains. Sea level and basal melting probably controlled the extent of grounded ice in the Ross Embayment. The interplay between the precipitation (low late Wisconsin and high Holocene values) and the influence of grounding on outlet glaciers (late Wisconsin thickening and late Wisconsin/Holocene thinning, with effects dying out inland) probably controlled minor elevation changes of the polar plateau.



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