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A time marker at 17.5 kyr BP detected throughout West Antarctica

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Deep radar soundings as part of the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (US-ITASE) traverses in West Antarctica have revealed a bright internal reflector that we have imaged throughout widespread locations across the ice sheet. The layer is seen in traverses emanating from Byrd Station in four directions and has been traced continuously for distances of 535 km toward the Weddell Sea drainage, 500 km toward South Pole, 150 km toward the Executive Committee Range and 160 km toward Kamb Ice Stream (former Ice Stream C). The approximate area encompassed by the layer identified in these studies is 250 000 km2. If the layer identification can also be extended to Siple Dome where we have additional radar soundings (Jacobel and others, 2000), the approximate area covered would increase by 50%. In many locations echo strength from the layer rivals the bed echo in amplitude even though it generally lies at a depth greater than half the ice thickness. At Byrd Station, where the layer depth is 1260 m, an age of ∼17.5 kyr BP has been assigned based on the Blunier and Brook (2001) chronology. Hammer and others (1997) note that the acidity at this depth is >20 times the amplitude of any other part of the core. The depiction of this strong and widespread dated isochrone provides a unique time marker for much of the ice in West Antarctica. We apply a layer-tracing technique to infer the depth–time scale at the inland West Antarctic ice sheet divide and use this in a simple model to estimate the average accumulation rate.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-06-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

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