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New Antarctic geological timeline aids future sea-level predictions
Date:1/16/2013

e experienced significant thinning (melting), flow acceleration and rapid landward retreat of their grounding lines, with that of Pine Island Glacier having retreated up to 25 km. It's possible that the grounding lines may retreat even further inland over coming decades. Our study has revealed that episodes of fast glacier retreat similar to that observed over recent decades can only have occurred very rarely during the previous 10,000 years."

The investigation was carried out in 2010 during an expedition on-board the German research ship RV Polarstern. The science team used gravity corers up to ten metres long to extract mud from the sea floor of the continental shelf in the Amundsen Sea.

Co-author Dr Gerhard Kuhn from AWI explains,

"It was important to get a better understanding of the rapid retreat that we see in the satellite data. As coring targets we selected three relatively shallow undersea ridges that lie within 110 kilometres of the current grounding line and flank a deep glacial valley which was carved into the sea bed by the glaciers during past ice sheet advances. These locations gave us the best chance to collect the tiny skeletons and shells of animals made of calcium carbonate. Such 'calcareous' microfossils are critical for using the radiocarbon technique to determine the age of the sediments, but they are normally extremely rare on the Antarctic continental shelf."

Co-author Dr James Smith, also from BAS, adds,

"First we determined the distance between the core locations and the modern position of the grounding line. Then by dating the type of sediment material deposited at a core site in the open ocean (after the grounding line had moved further landward), we were able to calculate the average rate of glacier retreat over time."

This new research will be used to improve the accuracy of computer models that are essential to predict future ice loss in the Amundsen Sea sector of the West Antarc
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Contact: Paul Seagrove
psea@bas.ac.uk
44-012-232-21414
British Antarctic Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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