Last Glacial Maximum-Holocene Glacial and Depositional History From Sediment Cores at Coulman High Beneath the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica
Sediment Cores collected from the shallow sub-sea floor beneath the Ross Ice Shelf at Coulman High have been analysed using sedimentological techniques to constrain the retreat history of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) ice sheet in the Ross Embayment, and to determine when the modern-day calving line location of the Ross Ice Shelf was established. A characteristic vertical succession of facies was identified in these cores, that can be linked to ice sheet and ice shelf extent in the Ross Embayment. The base of this succession consists of unconsolidated, clast rich muddy diamicts, and is interpreted to be deposited subglacially or in a grounding line proximal environment on account of a distinct provenance in the clast content which can only be attributed to subglacial transport from the Byrd Glacier 400 km to the south of the drill site. This is overlain by a mud with abundant clasts, similar in character to a granulated facies that has been documented previously in the Ross Sea, and is interpreted as being a characteristic grounding line lift-o facies in a sub-ice shelf setting. These glacial proximal facies pass upward into a mud, which comprises three distinctive units. i) Muds with sub-mm scale laminae resulting from traction currents occurring near the grounding line in a sub-ice shelf environment overlain by, ii) muds with sub-mm scale laminae and elevated biogenic content (diatoms and foraminifera) and sand/gravel clasts, interpreted as being deposited in open water conditions, passing up into a iii) bioturbated mud, interpreted as being deposited in sub-ice shelf environment, proximal to the calving line. The uppermost facies consists of a 20 cm thick diatom ooze with abundant clasts and pervasive bioturbation, indicative of a condensed section deposited during periodically open marine conditions. During post-LGM retreat of the ice sheet margin in western Ross Sea, and prior to the first open marine conditions at Coulman High, it is hypothesized that the grounding and calving line were in relative close proximity to each other. As the calving line became "pinned" in the Ross Island region, the grounding line likely continued its retreat toward its present day location. New corrected radiocarbon ages on the foraminifera shells in the interval of laminated muds with clasts, provide some of the first inorganic ages from the Ross Sea, and strengthen inferences from previous studies, that the first open marine conditions in the vicinity of Ross Island were 7,600 14C yr BP. While retreat of the calving line south of its present day position is implied during this period of mid-Holocene warmth prior to its re-advance, at present it is not possible to constrain the magnitude of retreat or attribute this to climate change rather than normal calving dynamics.