Feb 3, 2016

Evidence for the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet divide for 1.4 million years

Andrew S. Hein, John Woodward, Shasta M. Marrero, Stuart A. Dunning, Eric J. Steig, Stewart P. H. T. Freeman, Finlay M. Stuart, Kate Winter, Matthew J. Westoby, David E. Sugden
Nature Communications
  • Establishes importance of understanding past fluctuations of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) because of the possibility of WAIS collapse in the future and a consequent rise in global sea level
  • States the configuration and stability of the ice sheet during past interglacial periods remains uncertain
  • Presents evidence to suggest that the divide of the WAIS has fluctuated only modestly in location and thickness for at least the last 1.4 million years
  • Finds that fluctuations during glacial–interglacial cycles appear superimposed on a long-term trajectory of ice-surface lowering relative to the mountains
  • Finds that this implies as a minimum, a regional ice sheet centred on the Ellsworth-Whitmore uplands may have survived Pleistocene warm periods, and that if so, it constrains the WAIS contribution to global sea level rise during interglacials to about 3.3 m above present