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  1. Abstract

    The rapidly retreating Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers together dominate present-day ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and are implicated in runaway deglaciation scenarios. Knowledge of whether these glaciers were substantially smaller in the mid-Holocene and subsequently recovered to their present extents is important for assessing whether current ice recession is irreversible. Here we reconstruct relative sea-level change from radiocarbon-dated raised beaches at sites immediately seawards of these glaciers, allowing us to examine the response of the earth to loading and unloading of ice in the Amundsen Sea region. We find that relative sea level fell steadily over the past 5.5 kyr without rate changes that would characterize large-scale ice re-expansion. Moreover, current bedrock uplift rates are an order of magnitude greater than the rate of long-term relative sea-level fall, suggesting a change in regional crustal unloading and implying that the present deglaciation may be unprecedented in the past ~5.5 kyr. While we cannot preclude minor grounding-line fluctuations, our data are explained most easily by early Holocene deglaciation followed by relatively stable ice positions until recent times and imply that Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers have not been substantially smaller than present during the past 5.5 kyr.

  2. We assess if variations in the in situ cosmogenic 26Al/10Be production ratio expected from nuclear physics are consistent with empirical data, knowledge critical for two-isotope studies. We do this using 313 samples from glacially transported boulders or scoured bedrock with presumed simple exposure histories in the Informal Cosmogenic-nuclide Exposure-age Database (ICE-D) from latitudes between 53°S to 70°N and altitudes up to 5000 m above sea level. Although there were small systematic differences in Al/Be ratios measured in different laboratories, these were not significant and are in part explained by differences in elevation distribution of samples analyzed by each laboratory. We observe a negative correlation between the 26Al/10Be production ratio and elevation (p = 0.0005), consistent with predictions based on the measured energy dependence of nuclear reaction cross-sections and the spatial variability in cosmic-ray energy spectra. We detect an increase in the production ratio with increasing latitude, but this correlation is significant only in a single variate model, and we attribute at least some of the correlation to sample elevation bias because lower latitude samples are typically from higher elevations (and vice versa). Using 6.75 as the 26Al/10Be production ratio globally will bias two-isotope results at higher elevations and perhaps highermore »latitudes. Data reported here support using production rate scaling that incorporates such ratio changes, such as the LSDn scheme, to minimize such biases.« less
  3. Abstract. We use 25 new measurements of in situ produced cosmogenic 26Al and 10Bein river sand, paired with estimates of dissolved load flux in river water,to characterize the processes and pace of landscape change in central Cuba.Long-term erosion rates inferred from 10Be concentrations in quartzextracted from central Cuban river sand range from3.4–189 Mg km−2 yr−1 (mean 59, median 45). Dissolved loads (10–176 Mg km−2 yr−1; mean 92, median 97), calculated from stream soluteconcentrations and modeled runoff, exceed measured cosmogenic-10Be-derived erosion rates in 18 of 23 basins. This disparity mandatesthat in this environment landscape-scale mass loss is not fully representedby the cosmogenic nuclide measurements. The 26Al / 10Be ratios are lower than expected for steady-state exposure or erosion in 16 of 24 samples. Depressed 26Al / 10Be ratios occur in many of the basins that have the greatest disparity between dissolved loads (high) and erosion rates inferred from cosmogenic nuclide concentrations (low). Depressed 26Al / 10Be ratios are consistentwith the presence of a deep, mixed, regolith layer providing extendedstorage times on slopes and/or burial and extended storage during fluvialtransport. River water chemical analyses indicate that many basins with lower 26Al / 10Be ratios and high 10Be concentrations are underlain at least in part by evaporitic rocks that rapidly dissolve. Our data show that when assessingmore »mass loss in humid tropical landscapes,accounting for the contribution of rock dissolution at depth is particularly important. In such warm, wet climates, mineral dissolution can occur many meters below the surface, beyond the penetration depth of most cosmic rays and thus the production of most cosmogenic nuclides. Our data suggest the importance of estimating solute fluxes and measuring paired cosmogenic nuclides to better understand the processes and rates of mass transfer at a basin scale.« less
  4. Abstract. Widespread existing geological records from above the modern ice sheet surface and outboard of the current ice margin show that the Antarctic IceSheet (AIS) was much more extensive at the Last Glacial Maximum (∼ 20 ka) than at present. However, whether it was ever smaller thanpresent during the last few millennia, and (if so) by how much, is known only for a few locations because direct evidence lies within or beneath theice sheet, which is challenging to access. Here, we describe how retreat and readvance (henceforth “readvance”) of AIS grounding lines during theHolocene could be detected and quantified using subglacial bedrock, subglacial sediments, marine sediment cores, relative sea-level (RSL) records,geodetic observations, radar data, and ice cores. Of these, only subglacial bedrock and subglacial sediments can provide direct evidence forreadvance. Marine archives are of limited utility because readvance commonly covers evidence of earlier retreat. Nevertheless, stratigraphictransitions documenting change in environment may provide support for direct evidence from subglacial records, as can the presence of transgressionsin RSL records, and isostatic subsidence. With independent age control, ice structure revealed by radar can be used to infer past changes in iceflow and geometry, and therefore potential readvance. Since ice cores capture changes in surface massmore »balance, elevation, and atmosphericand oceanic circulation that are known to drive grounding line migration, they also have potential for identifying readvance. A multidisciplinaryapproach is likely to provide the strongest evidence for or against a smaller-than-present AIS in the Holocene.« less
  5. Abstract High-elevation rock surfaces in Antarctica have some of the oldest cosmogenic-nuclide exposure ages on Earth, dating back to the Miocene. A compilation of all available 3He, 10Be, and 21Ne exposure-age data from the Antarctic continent shows that exposure histories recorded by these surfaces extend back to, but not before, the mid-Miocene cooling at 14–15 Ma. At high elevation, this cooling entailed a transition between a climate in which liquid water and biota were present and could contribute to surface weathering and erosion, and a polar desert climate in which virtually all weathering and erosion processes had been shut off. This climate appears to have continued uninterrupted between the mid-Miocene and the present.
  6. Abstract We used measurements of radar-detected stratigraphy, surface ice-flow velocities and accumulation rates to investigate relationships between local valley-glacier and regional ice-sheet dynamics in and around the Schmidt Hills, Pensacola Mountains, Antarctica. Ground-penetrating radar profiles were collected perpendicular to the long axis of the Schmidt Hills and the margin of Foundation Ice Stream (FIS). Within the valley confines, the glacier consists of blue ice, and profiles show internal stratigraphy dipping steeply toward the nunataks and truncated at the present-day ablation surface. Below the valley confines, the blue ice is overlain by firn. Data show that upward-progressing overlap of actively accumulating firn onto valley-glacier ice is slightly less than ice flow out of the valleys over the past ∼1200 years. The apparent slightly negative mass balance (-0.25 cm a -1 ) suggests that ice-margin elevations in the Schmidt Hills may have lowered over this time period, even without a change in the surface elevation of FIS. Results suggest that (1) mass-balance gradients between local valley glaciers and regional ice sheets should be considered when using local information to estimate regional ice surface elevation changes; and (2) interpretation of shallow ice structures imaged with radar can provide information about local ice elevationmore »changes and stability.« less