Rapid thinning of the Late Pleistocene Patagonian Ice Sheet followed migration of the Southern Westerlies.
ABSTRACT: Here we present the first reconstruction of vertical ice-sheet profile changes from any of the Southern Hemisphere's mid-latitude Pleistocene ice sheets. We use cosmogenic radio-nuclide (CRN) exposure analysis to record the decay of the former Patagonian Ice Sheet (PIS) from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and into the late glacial. Our samples, from mountains along an east-west transect to the east of the present North Patagonian Icefield (NPI), serve as 'dipsticks' that allow us to reconstruct past changes in ice-sheet thickness, and demonstrates that the former PIS remained extensive and close to its LGM extent in this region until ~19.0 ka. After this time rapid ice-sheet thinning, initiated at ~18.1 ka, saw ice at or near its present dimension by 15.5 ka. We argue this rapid thinning was triggered by a combination of the rapid southward migration of the precipitation bearing Southern Hemisphere (SH) westerlies and regional warming.
Project description:Establishing the trajectory of thinning of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) since the last glacial maximum (LGM) is important for addressing questions concerning ice sheet (in)stability and changes in global sea level. Here we present detailed geomorphological and cosmogenic nuclide data from the southern Ellsworth Mountains in the heart of the Weddell Sea embayment that suggest the ice sheet, nourished by increased snowfall until the early Holocene, was close to its LGM thickness at 10?ka. A pulse of rapid thinning caused the ice elevation to fall ?400?m to the present level at 6.5-3.5?ka, and could have contributed 1.4-2?m to global sea-level rise. These results imply that the Weddell Sea sector of the WAIS contributed little to late-glacial pulses in sea-level rise but was involved in mid-Holocene rises. The stepped decline is argued to reflect marine downdraw triggered by grounding line retreat into Hercules Inlet.
Project description:Recent paleoclimate reconstructions have challenged the traditional view that Northern Hemisphere insolation and associated feedbacks drove synchronous global climate and ice-sheet volume during the last glacial cycle. Here we focus on the response of the Patagonian Ice Sheet, and demonstrate that its maximum expansion culminated at 28,400 ± 500 years before present (28.4 ± 0.5 ka), more than 5,000 years before the minima in 65 °N summer insolation and the formally-defined Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) at 21,000 ± 2,000 years before present. To investigate the potential drivers of this early LGM (eLGM), we simulate the effects of orbital changes using a suite of climate models incorporating prescribed and evolving sea-ice anomalies. Our analyses suggest that Antarctic sea-ice expansion at 28.5 ka altered the location and intensity of the Southern Hemisphere storm track, triggering regional cooling over Patagonia of 5 °C that extends across the wider mid-southern latitudes. In contrast, at the LGM, continued sea-ice expansion reduced regional temperature and precipitation further, effectively starving the ice sheet and resulting in reduced glacial expansion. Our findings highlight the dominant role that orbital changes can play in driving Southern Hemisphere glacial climate via the sensitivity of mid-latitude regions to changes in Antarctic sea-ice extent.
Project description:Glacial episodes of the Quaternary, and particularly the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) drastically altered the distribution of the Southern-Hemisphere biota, principally at higher latitudes. The irregular coastline of Patagonia expanding for more than 84.000 km constitutes a remarkable area to evaluate the effect of Quaternary landscape and seascape shifts over the demography of near-shore marine benthic organisms. Few studies describing the biogeographic responses of marine species to the LGM have been conducted in Patagonia, but existing data from coastal marine species have demonstrated marked genetic signatures of post-LGM recolonization and expansion. The kelp-dweller limpet Nacella mytilina is broadly distributed along the southern tip of South America and at the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. Considering its distribution, abundance, and narrow bathymetry, N. mytilina represents an appropriate model to infer how historical and contemporary processes affected the distribution of intraspecific genetic diversity and structure along the southern tip of South America. At the same time, it will be possible to determine how life history traits and the ecology of the species are responsible for the current pattern of gene flow and connectivity across the study area. We conducted phylogeographic and demographic inference analyses in N. mytilina from 12 localities along Pacific Patagonia (PP) and one population from the Falkland/Malvinas Islands (FI). Analyses of the mitochondrial gene COI in 300 individuals of N. mytilina revealed low levels of genetic polymorphism and the absence of genetic differentiation along PP. In contrast, FI showed a strong and significant differentiation from Pacific Patagonian populations. Higher levels of genetic diversity were also recorded in the FI population, together with a more expanded genealogy supporting the hypothesis of glacial persistence of the species in these islands. Haplotype genealogy, and mismatch analyses in the FI population recognized an older and more complex demographic history than in PP. Demographic reconstructions along PP suggest a post-LGM expansion process (7.5 ka), also supported by neutrality tests, mismatch distribution and maximum parsimony haplotype genealogies. Migration rate estimations showed evidence of asymmetrical gene flow from PP to FI. The absence of genetic differentiation, the presence of a single dominant haplotype, high estimated migration rates, and marked signal of recent demographic growth, support the hypothesis of rapid post-glacial expansion in N. mytilina along PP. This expansion could have been sustained by larval and rafting-mediated dispersal of adults from northernmost populations following the Cape Horn Current System. Marked genetic differentiation between PP and FI could be explained through differences in their respective glacial histories. During the LGM, Pacific Patagonia (PP) was almost fully covered by the Patagonian Ice Sheet, while sheet coverage in the FI ice was restricted to small cirques and valleys. As previously recorded in the sister-species N. magellanica, the FI rather than represent a classical glacial refugium for N. mytilina, seems to represent a sink area and/or a secondary contact zone. Accordingly, historical and contemporary processes, contrasting glacial histories between the analyzed sectors, as well as life history traits constitute the main factors explaining the current biogeographical patterns of most shallow Patagonian marine benthic organisms.
Project description:Precise knowledge about the extent of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; c. 26.5-19 cal. ka BP) is important in order to 1) improve paleo-ice sheet reconstructions, 2) provide a robust empirical framework for calibrating paleo-ice sheet models, and 3) locate potential shelf refugia for Antarctic benthos during the last glacial period. However, reliable reconstructions are still lacking for many WAIS sectors, particularly for key areas on the outer continental shelf, where the LGM-ice sheet is assumed to have terminated. In many areas of the outer continental shelf around Antarctica, direct geological data for the presence or absence of grounded ice during the LGM is lacking because of post-LGM iceberg scouring. This also applies to most of the outer continental shelf in the Amundsen Sea. Here we present detailed marine geophysical and new geological data documenting a sequence of glaciomarine sediments up to ~12 m thick within the deep outer portion of Abbot Trough, a palaeo-ice stream trough on the outer shelf of the Amundsen Sea Embayment. The upper 2-3 meters of this sediment drape contain calcareous foraminifera of Holocene and (pre-)LGM age and, in combination with palaeomagnetic age constraints, indicate that continuous glaciomarine deposition persisted here since well before the LGM, possibly even since the last interglacial period. Our data therefore indicate that the LGM grounding line, whose exact location was previously uncertain, did not reach the shelf edge everywhere in the Amundsen Sea. The LGM grounding line position coincides with the crest of a distinct grounding-zone wedge ~100 km inland from the continental shelf edge. Thus, an area of ?6000 km2 remained free of grounded ice through the last glacial cycle, requiring the LGM grounding line position to be re-located in this sector, and suggesting a new site at which Antarctic shelf benthos may have survived the last glacial period.
Project description:Sediment eroded from continents during ice ages can be rapidly (<104 years) transferred via rivers to the deep-sea and preserved in submarine fans, becoming a viable record of landscape evolution. We applied chemical weathering proxies and zircon geo-thermo-chronometry to late Pleistocene sediment recovered from the deep-sea Mississippi fan, revealing interactions between the Laurentide ice sheet (LIS) and broader Mississippi-Missouri catchment between ca. 70,000 and 10,000 years ago (70 to 10 ka). Sediment contribution from the Missouri catchment to the Mississippi fan was low between 70 and 30 ka but roughly doubled after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Therefore, pre-LGM glacial advance profoundly altered the vast Missouri drainage through ice dams and/or re-routing of the river, thereby controlling the transfer of continental debris and freshwater toward southern outlets.
Project description:Our understanding of how global climatic changes are translated into ice-sheet fluctuations and sea-level change is currently limited by a lack of knowledge of the configuration of ice sheets prior to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Here, we compile a synthesis of empirical data and numerical modelling results related to pre-LGM ice sheets to produce new hypotheses regarding their extent in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) at 17 time-slices that span the Quaternary. Our reconstructions illustrate pronounced ice-sheet asymmetry within the last glacial cycle and significant variations in ice-marginal positions between older glacial cycles. We find support for a significant reduction in the extent of the Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS) during MIS 3, implying that global sea levels may have been 30-40 m higher than most previous estimates. Our ice-sheet reconstructions illustrate the current state-of-the-art knowledge of pre-LGM ice sheets and provide a conceptual framework to interpret NH landscape evolution.
Project description:Arctic and Antarctic polynyas are crucial sites for deep-water formation, which helps sustain global ocean circulation. During glacial times, the occurrence of polynyas proximal to expansive ice sheets in both hemispheres has been proposed to explain limited ocean ventilation and a habitat requirement for marine and higher-trophic terrestrial fauna. Nonetheless, their existence remains equivocal, not least due to the hitherto paucity of sufficiently characteristic proxy data. Here we demonstrate polynya formation in front of the NW Eurasian ice sheets during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), which resulted from katabatic winds blowing seaward of the ice shelves and upwelling of warm, sub-surface Atlantic water. These polynyas sustained ice-sheet build-up, ocean ventilation, and marine productivity in an otherwise glacial Arctic desert. Following the catastrophic meltwater discharge from the collapsing ice sheets at ~17.5 ka BP, polynya formation ceased, marine productivity declined dramatically, and sea ice expanded rapidly to cover the entire Nordic Seas.
Project description:Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are thought to have synchronized global temperatures during Pleistocene glacial–interglacial cycles, yet their impact relative to changes in high-latitude insolation and ice-sheet extent remains poorly constrained. Here, we use tropical glacial fluctuations to assess the timing of low-latitude temperature changes relative to global climate forcings. We report 10Be ages of moraines in tropical East Africa and South America and show that glaciers reached their maxima at ~29 to 20 ka, during the global Last Glacial Maximum. Tropical glacial recession was underway by 20 ka, before the rapid CO2 rise at ~18.2 ka. This “early” tropical warming was influenced by rising high-latitude insolation and coincident ice-sheet recession in both polar regions, which lowered the meridional thermal gradient and reduced tropical heat export to the high latitudes.
Project description:Retreat of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) Antarctic ice sheet is thought to have been initiated by changes in ocean heat and eustatic sea level propagated from the Northern Hemisphere (NH) as northern ice sheets melted under rising atmospheric temperatures. The extent to which spatial variability in ice dynamics may have modulated the resultant pattern and timing of decay of the Antarctic ice sheet has so far received little attention, however, despite the growing recognition that dynamic effects account for a sizeable proportion of mass-balance changes observed in modern ice sheets. Here we use a 5-km resolution whole-continent numerical ice-sheet model to assess whether differences in the mechanisms governing ice sheet flow could account for discrepancies between geochronological studies in different parts of the continent. We first simulate the geometry and flow characteristics of an equilibrium LGM ice sheet, using pan-Antarctic terrestrial and marine geological data for constraint, then perturb the system with sea level and ocean heat flux increases to investigate ice-sheet vulnerability. Our results identify that fast-flowing glaciers in the eastern Weddell Sea, the Amundsen Sea, central Ross Sea, and in the Amery Trough respond most rapidly to ocean forcings, in agreement with empirical data. Most significantly, we find that although ocean warming and sea-level rise bring about mainly localized glacier acceleration, concomitant drawdown of ice from neighboring areas leads to widespread thinning of entire glacier catchments-a discovery that has important ramifications for the dynamic changes presently being observed in modern ice sheets.
Project description:The onset of deglaciation in the Southern Hemisphere mid-latitudes has been attributed to the southward transmission of climate anomalies in response to slow-down of Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) during Heinrich Stadial 1 (HS-1; 18-14.6 ka). However, inferences on the response of former ice sheets to sub-millennial palaeoclimate shifts are limited by a shortage of high-resolution terrestrial archives. Here we use a ~1000-year duration, annually-resolved lake sediment record to investigate the deglacial retreat dynamics of the Lago General Carrera-Buenos Aires ice lobe (46.5°S) of the former Patagonian Ice Sheet. We attribute the onset of glacier retreat at 18.0 ± 0.14 cal ka BP to abrupt southward migration of the Southern Westerly Winds that enhanced solar radiation receipt (and ablation) at the ice sheet surface. We infer that accelerated retreat from 17.77 ± 0.13 cal ka BP represents a lagged Southern Hemisphere response to gradual ocean-atmosphere warming associated with the centennial-scale transmission of Northern Hemisphere climate anomalies through the oceanic bipolar seesaw. By 17.38 ± 0.12 cal ka BP, the glacier margin had receded into a deepening proglacial lake, instigating sustained calving losses and more rapid ice recession.