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Radiocarbon Chronology of Ross Sea Drift, Eastern Taylor Valley, Antarctica: Evidence for a Grounded Ice Sheet in the Ross Sea at the Last Glacial Maximum

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More than 250 radiocarbon dates of lacustrine algae and marine shells afford a chronology for Ross Sea drift in eastern Taylor Valley. Dates of algae that lived in ice-dammed Glacial Lake Washburn show that grounded Ross Sea ice blocked the mouth of Taylor Valley between 8340 and 23,800 14C yr bp. Ross Sea ice was at its maximum position at the Hjorth Hill moraine between 12,700 and 14,600 14C yr bp and was within 500m distance of this position as late as 10,794 14C yr bp. The implication is that the flow line of the Ross Sea ice sheet which extended around northern Ross Island and across McMurdo Sound to Taylor Valley must have remained intact, and hence that a grounded ice sheet must have existed east of Ross Island as late as 8340 14C yr bp. Evidence from ice-dammed lakes in Taylor Valley and from shells from McMurdo Sound suggests grounding-line retreat from the vicinity of Ross Island between 6500 and 8340 14C yr bp. If this is correct, then most recession to the present-day grounding line on the Siple Coast took place subsequently in the absence of significant deglacial sea-level rise. Rising sea level may have triggered internal mechanisms within the ice sheet that led to retreat, but did not in itself drive continued ice-sheet recession. Ice retreat, once set in motion, continued in the absence of sea-level forcing. If correct, this hypothesis implies that the grounding line could continue to recede into the interior reservoir of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geological Sciences and Institute for Quaternary Studies, University of Maine, and Department of Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA 2: Department of Geological Sciences and Institute for Quaternary Studies, University of Maine, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2000

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