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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© 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.

Research article 30 Jan 2019

Research article | 30 Jan 2019

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

Modelling the Antarctic Ice Sheet across the Mid Pleistocene Transition – Implications for Oldest Ice

Johannes Sutter1,2, Hubertus Fischer2, Klaus Grosfeld1, Nanna B. Karlsson1, Thomas Kleiner1, Brice Van Liefferinge3,5, and Olaf Eisen1,4 Johannes Sutter et al.
  • 1Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Centre for Polar and Marine Research, 27568 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 2Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Laboratoire de Glaciologie, Université libre de Bruxelles, CP 160/03, Avenue F. D. Roosevelt 50, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
  • 4Department of Geosciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 5Norwegian Polar Institute Fram Centre, NO-9296, Tromsø, Norway

Abstract. The international endeavour to retrieve a continuous ice core, which spans the middle Pleistocene climate transition ca. 1.2–0.9 Myr ago, encompasses a multitude of field and model-based pre-site surveys. We expand on the current efforts to locate a suitable drilling site for the oldest Antarctic ice core by means of 3D continental ice sheet modelling. To this end, we present an ensemble of ice sheet simulations spanning the last 2 Myr and employing transient boundary conditions derived from climate modelling and climate proxy records. We discuss the effects of changing climate conditions, sea level and geothermal heat flux boundary conditions on the mass balance and ice dynamics of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Our modelling results show a range of configurational ice sheet changes across the middle Pleistocene transition, suggesting a potential shift of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to a marine-based configuration. Despite the middle Pleistocene climate re-organisation and associated ice-dynamic changes we identify several regions conducive to conditions maintaining 1.5 Myr old ice, particularly around Dome Fuji, Dome C and Ridge B, in agreement to previous studies. This finding strengthens the notion that old ice exists in previously identified regions, while providing a dynamic continental ice sheet context.

Johannes Sutter et al.
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Johannes Sutter et al.
Johannes Sutter et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The Antarctic Ice Sheet may have played an important role in moderating the transition between warm and cold climate epochs over the last million of years. We find that the Antarctic Ice Sheet grew considerably about 0.9 Myr ago, a time when ice age/warm age cycles changed from a 40 000 to a 100 000 yr periodicity. Our findings also suggest that ice as old as 1.5 Myr still exists at the bottom of the East Antarctic ice sheet despite the major climate reorganizations in the past.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet may have played an important role in moderating the transition between...