University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Scott Polar Research Institute - Physical Sciences Seminar > Unveiling the glacial and landscape evolution of West Antarctica: subglacial insights from ice-penetrating radar and satellite imagery

Unveiling the glacial and landscape evolution of West Antarctica: subglacial insights from ice-penetrating radar and satellite imagery

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Antarctic subglacial highlands are where the Antarctic ice sheets first developed and the ‘pinning points’ where retreat phases of the marine-based sectors of the ice sheet are impeded. Due to low ice velocities and limited present-day change in the ice sheet interior, West Antarctic subglacial highlands have been overlooked for detailed study. These regions have considerable potential, however, for establishing from where the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) originated and grew, and its likely configuration and glaciology in a warmer climate. Here, we characterise the subglacial morphology of the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands (ESH), West Antarctica, using radio-echo sounding (RES) surveys and satellite-derived ice surface imagery. We document numerous, well-preserved classic glaciated valley landforms (e.g. large overdeepened troughs, hanging tributary valleys, and fjord-mouth threshold bars) indicative of warm-based marine-proximal alpine glaciation. The landscape predates the present ice sheet, and was formed by a small dynamic ice-field(s) with tidewater-terminating margins, at times when the marine sections of the WAIS were absent and the deep former marine basins of the WAIS (e.g. Bentley Subglacial Trench) were inundated. ESH represents a major seeding centre of the palaeo-WAIS, and its margins represent the pinning point at which future retreat of the marine-based WAIS would be arrested.

This talk is part of the Scott Polar Research Institute - Physical Sciences Seminar series.

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