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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 18 Jun 2019

Submitted as: research article | 18 Jun 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Rock glacier characteristics serve as an indirect record of multiple alpine glacier advances in Taylor Valley, Antarctica

Kelsey Winsor1,a, Kate M. Swanger1, Esther Babcock2, Rachel D. Valletta3,b, and James L. Dickson4,c Kelsey Winsor et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, 01854, USA
  • 2Logic Geophysics & Analytics LLC, Anchorage, 99508, USA
  • 3Department of Earth and EnvironmentalSciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 19104, USA
  • 4Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, Brown University, Providence, 02912, USA
  • anow at: School of Earth and Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, 86005, USA
  • bnow at: Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA, 19103, USA
  • cnow at: Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, 91125, USA

Abstract. The geomorphic record indicates that alpine glaciers in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of southern Victoria Land, Antarctica appear to advance during interglacial periods in response to ice-free conditions in the Ross Sea. Few records of these advances are preserved and/or subaerially exposed, complicating the interpretations of regional glacier response to climate changes. Here, we present geophysical and geochemical analyses of a rock glacier that originates from icefalls fed by alpine Doran Glacier in central Taylor Valley. The rock glacier exhibits a trend of increased weathering of granitic clasts via ventifaction and grussification down-flow. Meltwater ponds on the rock glacier exhibit variable salinity that ranges from freshwater to higher than seawater, with the highest salinity pond near the rock glacier toe. Ground-penetrating radar analyses reveal the feature to possess a primarily clean ice interior, with layers of englacial debris. Stable isotopic data from three ice cores support a glacial origin for the ice within the rock glacier. These data suggest that the current morphology of the rock glacier is the result of multiple events of increased ice contribution caused by advances of Doran Glacier, which is the main source of the ice that cores the rock glacier. We therefore demonstrate the potential of ice-cored rock glaciers to record multiple advances and retreats of Dry Valley glaciers, permitting the interpretation of glacial responses to Pleistocene and Holocene climate change even where direct records are not present.

Kelsey Winsor et al.
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Kelsey Winsor et al.
Kelsey Winsor et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We studied an ice-cored rock glacier in Taylor Valley, Antarctica, coupling ground-penetrating radar analyses with stable isotope and major ion geochemistry of (a) surface ponds and (b) buried clean ice. These analyses indicate that the rock glacier ice is fed by a nearby alpine glacier, recording multiple late Pleistocene and Holocene glacial advances. We demonstrate the potential to use rock glaciers and buried ice, common throughout Antarctica, to map previous glacial extents.
We studied an ice-cored rock glacier in Taylor Valley, Antarctica, coupling ground-penetrating...