The East Antarctic Ice Sheet: unstable ice or unstable ideas?

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Abstract:

This paper reviews the nature of the controversy concerning the stability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The issue is whether or not the ice sheet experienced massive deglaciation during the globally warmer climate of the Pliocene around 3 million years ago and caused global sea level to rise some 60 m. The conclusion is that this did not occur and that the ice sheet has been stable for at least 14 million years. Why did this controversy arise? One reason is that the biostratigraphic evidence used to postulate deglaciation was taken out of its geomorphological context. The hypothesis took on a life of its own and the significance of contradictory geomorphological evidence was ignored for some years. Part of the responsibility for this state of affairs is that geomorphology, striving for a physics-based, analytical science methodology, has neglected long-term studies of landscape evolution which require the methodology of an interpretative, historical science.

Keywords: Antarctica; geomorphology; ice sheet; landscape evolution; mountains

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 1996

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