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Ice Induced Sea Level Change in the Late Neogene

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posted on 2021-11-08, 23:00 authored by Wilson, Gary Steven

Two independent records of latest Neogene (2,0 - 6.0 Ma.) glacioeustasy are presented, one of Antarctic ice volume from East Antarctica and the other of eustatic sea level from the South Wanganui Basin, New Zealand. Glacial deposits in the Transantarctic Mountains (Sirius Group) and sediment at the Antarctic continental margin provide direct evidence of Antarctic ice sheet fluctuation. Evidence for deglaciation includes the occurrence of Pliocene marine diatoms in Sirius Group deposits, which are sourced from the East Antarctic interior. K/Ar and 39Ar/40Ar dating of a tuff in the CIROS-2 drill-core confirms their Pliocene age at high latitudes (78 [degrees] S) in Antarctica. Further evidence for Antarctic ice volume fluctuation is recorded by glaciomarine strata from the Ross Sea Sector cored by the CIROS-2 and DVDP-11 drill-holes. Magnetostratigraphy integrated with Beryllium-10, K/Ar and 39Ar/40Ar dating provides a high resolution ([plus or minus] 50 k.y.) chronology of events in these strata. In the Wanganui Basin, New Zealand, a 5 km thick succession of continental shelf sediments, now uplifted, records Late Neogene eustatic sea level fluctuation. In the Late Neogene, basin subsidence equalled sediment input allowing eustatic sea level fluctuation to produce a dynamic alternation of highstand, transgressive, and lowstand sediment wedges. This record of Late Neogene sea level variation is unequalled in its resolution and detail. Magnetostratigraphy provides a high resolution chronology for these sedimentary cycles as well as magnetic tie lines with the Antarctic margin record in McMurdo Sound. These two independent records of Late Neogene glacioeustasy are in good agreement and record the following history: The Late Miocene and Late Pliocene are times of low 'base level' glacioeustasy (here termed glacialism, rather than glacial), with growth of continental-scale ice sheets on the Antarctic continent causing a lowering of global sea level. The Early Pliocene was a time of high 'base level' glacioeustasy (here termed interglacialism, rather than interglacial), driven by collapsing of continental-scale ice sheets to local and subcontinental ice caps. The middle Pliocene is marked by a move into glacialism with an increasing 'base level' of glacioeustatic fluctuation. Higher-order glacial advances and associated eustatic sea-level lowering occurred at approximately 3.5 and 4.3 Ma., separating the Early Pliocene into 3 sea-level stages. Still higher-order glacioeustatic fluctuations are recognised in this study, with durations of 50 Ka. and 100 - 300 Ka.. The 100 - 300 Ka. duration cycles are prominent during interglacialisms, and the 50 Ka. duration cycles are prominent during glacialisms. These shorter duration fluctuations in glacioeustasy have already been recognised as glacial/deglacial cycles from detailed studies of the Quaternary. Four orders of sea-level fluctuation are recognised within the Late Neogene, these are of approximately 0.05 Ma., 0.1-0.3 Ma., 2 Ma., and 4 Ma. in duration. The 2 Ma. and 4 Ma. duration cycles are subdivisions of the third order cyclicity recognised by Vail et al. (1991) (referred to here as cyclicity orders 3a and 3b). The 0.1-0.3 Ma. duration cycles are a subset of the fourth order cyclicity recognised Vail et al. (1991), and the 0.05 Ma. Duration cycles are a subset of the 5 th order cyclicity recognised by Vail et al. (1991). 3a, 3b and 4 th order sea level fluctuations are driven by fluctuations in the volume of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Fifth order sea level fluctuations are also suggested to be at least partially driven by fluctuations in the volume of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Milankovitch cyclicities in glacioeustasy (<100 Ka., fifth order cyclicity) are prominent in the geologic record at times when there is large scale glaciation (glacialism) of the Antarctic Continent (e.g. for the Pleistocene). Conversely, at times when the Antarctic continent is in a deglaciated state (deglacialism) fourth order cyclicity is more prominent, with Milankovitch cyclicities present at a parasequence level.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Pillans, Brad; Barrett, Peter