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Title: Expedition 379 Preliminary Report: Amundsen Sea West Antarctic Ice Sheet History
The Amundsen Sea sector of Antarctica has long been considered the most vulnerable part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) because of the great water depth at the grounding line and the absence of substantial ice shelves. Glaciers in this configuration are thought to be susceptible to rapid or runaway retreat. Ice flowing into the Amundsen Sea Embayment is undergoing the most rapid changes of any sector of the Antarctic Ice Sheet outside the Antarctic Peninsula, including changes caused by substantial grounding-line retreat over recent decades, as observed from satellite data. Recent models suggest that a threshold leading to the collapse of WAIS in this sector may have been already crossed and that much of the ice sheet could be lost even under relatively moderate greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Drill cores from the Amundsen Sea provide tests of several key questions about controls on ice sheet stability. The cores offer a direct record of glacial history offshore from a drainage basin that receives ice exclusively from the WAIS, which allows clear comparisons between the WAIS history and low-latitude climate records. Today, warm Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) is impinging onto the Amundsen Sea shelf and causing melting of the underside of more » the WAIS in most places. Reconstructions of past CDW intrusions can assess the ties between warm water upwelling and large-scale changes in past grounding-line positions. Carrying out these reconstructions offshore from the drainage basin that currently has the most substantial negative mass balance of ice anywhere in Antarctica is thus of prime interest to future predictions. The scientific objectives for this expedition are built on hypotheses about WAIS dynamics and related paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic conditions. The main objectives are 1. To test the hypothesis that WAIS collapses occurred during the Neogene and Quaternary and, if so, when and under which environmental conditions; 2. To obtain ice-proximal records of ice sheet dynamics in the Amundsen Sea that correlate with global records of ice-volume changes and proxy records for atmospheric and ocean temperatures; 3. To study the stability of a marine-based WAIS margin and how warm deep-water incursions control its position on the shelf; 4. To find evidence for earliest major grounded WAIS advances onto the middle and outer shelf; 5. To test the hypothesis that the first major WAIS growth was related to the uplift of the Marie Byrd Land dome. International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 379 completed two very successful drill sites on the continental rise of the Amundsen Sea. Site U1532 is located on a large sediment drift, now called Resolution Drift, and penetrated to 794 m with 90% recovery. We collected almost-continuous cores from the Pleistocene through the Pliocene and into the late Miocene. At Site U1533, we drilled 383 m (70% recovery) into the more condensed sequence at the lower flank of the same sediment drift. The cores of both sites contain unique records that will enable study of the cyclicity of ice sheet advance and retreat processes as well as bottom-water circulation and water mass changes. In particular, Site U1532 revealed a sequence of Pliocene sediments with an excellent paleomagnetic record for high-resolution climate change studies of the previously sparsely sampled Pacific sector of the West Antarctic margin. Despite the drilling success at these sites, the overall expedition experienced three unexpected difficulties that affected many of the scientific objectives: 1. The extensive sea ice on the continental shelf prevented us from drilling any of the proposed shelf sites. 2. The drill sites on the continental rise were in the path of numerous icebergs of various sizes that frequently forced us to pause drilling or leave the hole entirely as they approached the ship. The overall downtime caused by approaching icebergs was 50% of our time spent on site. 3. An unfortunate injury to a member of the ship's crew cut the expedition short by one week. Recovery of core on the continental rise at Sites U1532 and U1533 cannot be used to precisely indicate the position of ice or retreat of the ice sheet on the shelf. However, these sediments contained in the cores offer a range of clues about past WAIS extent and retreat. At Sites U1532 and U1533, coarse-grained sediments interpreted to be ice-rafted debris (IRD) were identified throughout all recovered time periods. A dominant feature of the cores is recorded by lithofacies cyclicity, which is interpreted to represent relatively warmer periods variably characterized by higher microfossil abundance, greater bioturbation, and higher counts of IRD alternating with colder periods characterized by dominantly gray laminated terrigenous muds. Initial comparison of these cycles to published records from the region suggests that the units interpreted as records of warmer time intervals in the core tie to interglacial periods and the units interpreted as deposits of colder periods tie to glacial periods. The cores from the two drill sites recovered sediments of purely terrigenous origin intercalated or mixed with pelagic or hemipelagic deposits. In particular, Site U1533, which is located near a deep-sea channel originating from the continental slope, contains graded sands and gravel transported downslope from the shelf to the abyssal plain. The channel is likely the path of such sediments transported downslope by turbidity currents or other sediment-gravity flows. The association of lithologic facies at both sites predominantly reflects the interplay of downslope and contouritic sediment supply with occasional input of more pelagic sediment. Despite the lack of cores from the shelf, our records from the continental rise reveal the timing of glacial advances across the shelf and thus the existence of a continent-wide ice sheet in West Antarctica at least during longer time periods since the late Miocene. Cores from both sites contain abundant coarse-grained sediments and clasts of plutonic origin transported either by downslope processes or by ice rafting. If detailed provenance studies confirm our preliminary assessment that the origin of these samples is from the plutonic bedrock of Marie Byrd Land, their thermochronological record will potentially reveal timing and rates of denudation and erosion linked to crustal uplift. The chronostratigraphy of both sites enables the generation of a seismic sequence stratigraphy not only for the Amundsen Sea rise but also for the western Amundsen Sea along the Marie Byrd Land margin through a connecting network of seismic lines. « less
Authors:
; ;
Award ID(s):
1326927
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10281899
Journal Name:
Preliminary report
Volume:
379
ISSN:
2372-9562
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. The Amundsen Sea sector of Antarctica has long been considered the most vulnerable part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) because of the great water depth at the grounding line, a subglacial bed seafloor deepening toward the interior of the continent, and the absence of substantial ice shelves. Glaciers in this configuration are thought to be susceptible to rapid or runaway retreat. Ice flowing into the Amundsen Sea Embayment is undergoing the most rapid changes of any sector of the Antarctic ice sheets outside the Antarctic Peninsula, including substantial grounding-line retreat over recent decades, as observed from satellite data. Recent models suggest that a threshold leading to the collapse of WAIS in this sector may have been already crossed and that much of the ice sheet could be lost even under relatively moderate greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Drill cores from the Amundsen Sea provide tests of several key questions about controls on ice sheet stability. The cores offer a direct offshore record of glacial history in a sector that is exclusively influenced by ice draining the WAIS, which allows clear comparisons between the WAIS history and low-latitude climate records. Today, relatively warm (modified) Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) is impingingmore »onto the Amundsen Sea shelf and causing melting under ice shelves and at the grounding line of the WAIS in most places. Reconstructions of past CDW intrusions can assess the ties between warm water upwelling and large-scale changes in past grounding-line positions. Carrying out these reconstructions offshore from the drainage basin that currently has the most substantial negative mass balance of ice anywhere in Antarctica is thus of prime interest to future predictions. The scientific objectives for this expedition are built on hypotheses about WAIS dynamics and related paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic conditions. The main objectives are: 1. To test the hypothesis that WAIS collapses occurred during the Neogene and Quaternary and, if so, when and under which environmental conditions; 2. To obtain ice-proximal records of ice sheet dynamics in the Amundsen Sea that correlate with global records of ice-volume changes and proxy records for atmospheric and ocean temperatures; 3. To study the stability of a marine-based WAIS margin and how warm deepwater incursions control its position on the shelf; 4. To find evidence for the earliest major grounded WAIS advances onto the middle and outer shelf; 5. To test the hypothesis that the first major WAIS growth was related to the uplift of the Marie Byrd Land dome. International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 379 completed two very successful drill sites on the continental rise of the Amundsen Sea. Site U1532 is located on a large sediment drift, now called the Resolution Drift, and it penetrated to 794 m with 90% recovery. We collected almost-continuous cores from recent age through the Pleistocene and Pliocene and into the upper Miocene. At Site U1533, we drilled 383 m (70% recovery) into the more condensed sequence at the lower flank of the same sediment drift. The cores of both sites contain unique records that will enable study of the cyclicity of ice sheet advance and retreat processes as well as ocean-bottom water circulation and water mass changes. In particular, Site U1532 revealed a sequence of Pliocene sediments with an excellent paleomagnetic record for high-resolution climate change studies of the previously sparsely sampled Pacific sector of the West Antarctic margin. Despite the drilling success at these sites, the overall expedition experienced three unexpected difficulties that affected many of the scientific objectives: 1. The extensive sea ice on the continental shelf prevented us from drilling any of the proposed shelf sites. 2. The drill sites on the continental rise were in the path of numerous icebergs of various sizes that frequently forced us to pause drilling or leave the hole entirely as they approached the ship. The overall downtime caused by approaching icebergs was 50% of our time spent on site. 3. A medical evacuation cut the expedition short by 1 week. Recovery of core on the continental rise at Sites U1532 and U1533 cannot be used to indicate the extent of grounded ice on the shelf or, thus, of its retreat directly. However, the sediments contained in these cores offer a range of clues about past WAIS extent and retreat. At Sites U1532 and U1533, coarse-grained sediments interpreted to be ice-rafted debris (IRD) were identified throughout all recovered time periods. A dominant feature of the cores is recorded by lithofacies cyclicity, which is interpreted to represent relatively warmer periods variably characterized by sediments with higher microfossil abundance, greater bioturbation, and higher IRD concentrations alternating with colder periods characterized by dominantly gray laminated terrigenous muds. Initial comparison of these cycles to published late Quaternary records from the region suggests that the units interpreted to be records of warmer time intervals in the core tie to global interglacial periods and the units interpreted to be deposits of colder periods tie to global glacial periods. Cores from the two drill sites recovered sediments of dominantly terrigenous origin intercalated or mixed with pelagic or hemipelagic deposits. In particular, Site U1533, which is located near a deep-sea channel originating from the continental slope, contains graded silts, sands, and gravels transported downslope from the shelf to the rise. The channel is likely the pathway of these sediments transported by turbidity currents and other gravitational downslope processes. The association of lithologic facies at both sites predominantly reflects the interplay of downslope and contouritic sediment supply with occasional input of more pelagic sediment. Despite the lack of cores from the shelf, our records from the continental rise reveal the timing of glacial advances across the shelf and thus the existence of a continent-wide ice sheet in West Antarctica during longer time periods since at least the late Miocene. Cores from both sites contain abundant coarse-grained sediments and clasts of plutonic origin transported either by downslope processes or by ice rafting. If detailed provenance studies confirm our preliminary assessment that the origin of these samples is from the plutonic bedrock of Marie Byrd Land, their thermochronological record will potentially reveal timing and rates of denudation and erosion linked to crustal uplift. The chronostratigraphy of both sites enables the generation of a seismic sequence stratigraphy for the entire Amundsen Sea continental rise, spanning the area offshore from the Amundsen Sea Embayment westward along the Marie Byrd Land margin to the easternmost Ross Sea through a connecting network of seismic lines.« less
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  4. The marine-based West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is currently retreating due to shifting wind-driven oceanic currents that transport warm waters toward the ice margin, resulting in ice shelf thinning and accelerated mass loss of the WAIS. Previous results from geologic drilling on Antarctica’s continental margins show significant variability in marine-based ice sheet extent during the late Neogene and Quaternary. Numerical models indicate a fundamental role for oceanic heat in controlling this variability over at least the past 20 My. Although evidence for past ice sheet variability has been collected in marginal settings, sedimentologic sequences from the outer continental shelf are required to evaluate the extent of past ice sheet variability and the associated oceanic forcings and feedbacks. International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 374 drilled a latitudinal and depth transect of five drill sites from the outer continental shelf to rise in the eastern Ross Sea to resolve the relationship between climatic and oceanic change and WAIS evolution through the Neogene and Quaternary. This location was selected because numerical ice sheet models indicate that this sector of Antarctica is highly sensitive to changes in ocean heat flux. The expedition was designed for optimal data-model integration and will enable an improved understandingmore »of the sensitivity of Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) mass balance during warmer-than-present climates (e.g., the Pleistocene “super interglacials,” the mid-Pliocene, and the late early to middle Miocene). The principal goals of Expedition 374 were to • Evaluate the contribution of West Antarctica to far-field ice volume and sea level estimates; • Reconstruct ice-proximal atmospheric and oceanic temperatures to identify past polar amplification and assess its forcings and feedbacks; • Assess the role of oceanic forcing (e.g., sea level and temperature) on AIS stability/instability; • Identify the sensitivity of the AIS to Earth’s orbital configuration under a variety of climate boundary conditions; and • Reconstruct eastern Ross Sea paleobathymetry to examine relationships between seafloor geometry, ice sheet stability/instability, and global climate. To achieve these objectives, we will • Use data and models to reconcile intervals of maximum Neogene and Quaternary Antarctic ice advance with far-field records of eustatic sea level change; • Reconstruct past changes in oceanic and atmospheric temperatures using a multiproxy approach; • Reconstruct Neogene and Quaternary sea ice margin fluctuations in datable marine continental slope and rise records and correlate these records to existing inner continental shelf records; • Examine relationships among WAIS stability/instability, Earth’s orbital configuration, oceanic temperature and circulation, and atmospheric pCO2; and • Constrain the timing of Ross Sea continental shelf overdeepening and assess its impact on Neogene and Quaternary ice dynamics. Expedition 374 was carried out from January to March 2018, departing from Lyttelton, New Zealand. We recovered 1292.70 m of high-quality cores from five sites spanning the early Miocene to late Quaternary. Three sites were cored on the continental shelf (Sites U1521, U1522, and U1523). At Site U1521, we cored a 650 m thick sequence of interbedded diamictite, mudstone, and diatomite, penetrating the Ross Sea seismic Unconformity RSU4. The depositional reconstructions of past glacial and open-marine conditions at this site will provide unprecedented insight into environmental change on the Antarctic continental shelf during the early and middle Miocene. At Site U1522, we cored a discontinuous upper Miocene to Pleistocene sequence of glacial and glaciomarine strata from the outer shelf, with the primary objective to penetrate and date seismic Unconformity RSU3, which is interpreted to represent the first major continental shelf–wide expansion and coalescing of marine-based ice streams from both East and West Antarctica. At Site U1523, we cored a sediment drift located beneath the westerly flowing Antarctic Slope Current (ASC). Cores from this site will provide a record of the changing vigor of the ASC through time. Such a reconstruction will enable testing of the hypothesis that changes in the vigor of the ASC represent a key control on regulating heat flux onto the continental shelf, resulting in the ASC playing a fundamental role in ice sheet mass balance. We also cored two sites on the continental slope and rise. At Site U1524, we cored a Plio–Pleistocene sedimentary sequence on the continental rise on the levee of the Hillary Canyon, which is one of the largest conduits of Antarctic Bottom Water delivery from the Antarctic continental shelf into the abyssal ocean. Drilling at Site U1524 was intended to penetrate into middle Miocene and older strata but was initially interrupted by drifting sea ice that forced us to abandon coring in Hole U1524A at 399.5 m drilling depth below seafloor (DSF). We moved to a nearby alternate site on the continental slope (U1525) to core a single hole with a record complementary to the upper part of the section recovered at Site U1524. We returned to Site U1524 3 days later, after the sea ice cleared. We then cored Hole U1524C with the rotary core barrel with the intention of reaching the target depth of 1000 m DSF. However, we were forced to terminate Hole U1524C at 441.9 m DSF due to a mechanical failure with the vessel that resulted in termination of all drilling operations and a return to Lyttelton 16 days earlier than scheduled. The loss of 39% of our operational days significantly impacted our ability to achieve all Expedition 374 objectives as originally planned. In particular, we were not able to obtain the deeper time record of the middle Miocene on the continental rise or abyssal sequences that would have provided a continuous and contemporaneous archive to the high-quality (but discontinuous) record from Site U1521 on the continental shelf. The mechanical failure also meant we could not recover sediment cores from proposed Site RSCR-19A, which was targeted to obtain a high-fidelity, continuous record of upper Neogene and Quaternary pelagic/hemipelagic sedimentation. Despite our failure to recover a shelf-to-rise transect for the Miocene, a continental shelf-to-rise transect for the Pliocene to Pleistocene interval is possible through comparison of the high-quality records from Site U1522 with those from Site U1525 and legacy cores from the Antarctic Geological Drilling Project (ANDRILL).« less
  5. IODP Expedition 379 to the Amundsen Sea continental rise recovered latest Miocene-Holocene sediments from two sites on a drift in water depths >3900m. Sediments are dominated by clay and silty clay with coarser-grained intervals and ice-rafted detritus (IRD) (Gohl et al. 2021, doi:10.14379/iodp.proc.379.2021). Cobble-sized dropstones appear as fall-in, in cores recovered from sediments >5.3 Ma. We consider that abundant IRD and the sparse dropstones melted out of icebergs formed due to Antarctic ice-sheet calving events. We are using petrological and age characteristics of the clasts from the Exp379 sites to fingerprint their bedrock provenance. The results may aid in reconstruction of past changes in icesheet extent and extend knowledge of subglacial bedrock. Mapped onshore geology shows pronounced distinctions in bedrock age between tectonic provinces of West or East Antarctica (e.g. Cox et al. 2020, doi:10.21420/7SH7-6K05; Jordan et al. 2020, doi.org/10.1038/s43017-019-0013-6). This allows us to use geochronology and thermochronology of rock clasts and minerals for tracing their provenance, and ascertain whether IRD deposited at IODP379 drillsites originated from proximal or distal Antarctic sources. We here report zircon and apatite U-Pb dates from four sand samples and five dropstones taken from latest Miocene, early Pliocene, and Plio-Pleistocene-boundary sediments. Additional Hf isotope data,more »and apatite fission track and 40Ar/39Ar Kfeldspar ages for some of the same samples help to strengthen provenance interpretations. The study revealed three distinct zircon age populations at ca. 100, 175, and 250 Ma. Using Kolmogorov-Smirnov (K-S) statistical tests to compare our new igneous and detrital zircon (DZ) U-Pb results with previously published data, we found strong similarities to West Antarctic bedrock, but low correspondence to prospective sources in East Antarctica, implying a role for icebergs calved from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). The ~100 Ma age resembles plutonic ages from Marie Byrd Land and islands in Pine Island Bay. The ~250 and 175 Ma populations match published mineral dates from shelf sediments in the eastern Amundsen Sea Embayment as well as granite ages from the Antarctic Peninsula and the Ellsworth-Whitmore Mountains (EWM). The different derivation of coarse sediment sources requires changes in iceberg origin through the latest Miocene, early Pliocene, and Plio/Pleistocene, likely the result of changes in WAIS extent. One unique dropstone recovered from Exp379 Site U1533B is green quartz arenite, which yielded mostly 500-625 Ma detrital zircons. In visual appearance and dominant U-Pb age population, it resembles a sandstone dropstone recovered from Exp382 Site U1536 in the Scotia Sea (Hemming et al. 2020, https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2020AM/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/357276). K-S tests yield high values (P ≥ 0.6), suggesting a common provenance for both dropstones recovered from late Miocene to Pliocene sediments, despite the 3270 km distance separating the sites. Comparisons to published data, in progress, narrow the group of potential on-land sources to exposures in the EWM or isolated ranges at far south latitudes in the Antarctic interior. If both dropstones originated from the same source area, they could signify dramatic shifts in the WAIS grounding line position, and the possibility of the periodic opening of a seaway connecting the Amundsen and Weddell Seas. https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU21/EGU21-9151.html« less