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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.

Submitted as: research article 16 Dec 2019

Submitted as: research article | 16 Dec 2019

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Past ice sheet-seabed interactions in the northeastern Weddell Sea Embayment, Antarctica

Jan Erik Arndt1,2, Robert D. Larter2, Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand2, Simon H. Sørli3, Matthias Forwick3, James A. Smith2, and Lukas Wacker4 Jan Erik Arndt et al.
  • 1Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Am Handelshafen 12, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 2British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
  • 3Department of Geosciences, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Postboks 6050 Langnes, 9037 Tromsø, Norway
  • 4ETH Zürich, Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics, Schafmattstrasse 20, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. The Antarctic Ice Sheet extent in the Weddell Sea Embayment (WSE) during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; ca. 19–25 calibrated kiloyears before present, cal. ka BP) and its subsequent retreat from the shelf are poorly constrained, with two conflicting scenarios being discussed. Today, the modern Brunt Ice Shelf, the last remaining ice shelf in the northeastern WSE, is only pinned at a single location and recent crevasse development may lead to its rapid disintegration in the near future. We investigated the seafloor morphology on the northeastern WSE shelf and discuss its implications, in combination with marine geological records, for reconstructions of the past behaviour of this sector of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), including ice-seafloor interactions. Our data show that an ice stream flowed through Stancomb-Wills Trough and acted as the main conduit for EAIS drainage during the LGM. Post-LGM ice-stream retreat occurred stepwise, with at least three documented grounding line still stands, and the trough had become free of grounded ice by ~10.5 cal. ka BP. In contrast, slow-flowing ice once covered the shelf in Brunt Basin and extended westwards toward McDonald Bank. During a later time period, only floating ice was present within Brunt Basin, but large ‘ice slabs’ enclosed within the ice shelf occasionally ran aground at the eastern side of McDonald Bank, forming ten unusual ramp-shaped seabed features. These ramps are the result of temporary ice-shelf grounding events buttressing the ice further upstream. To the west of this area, Halley Trough very likely was free of grounded ice during the LGM, representing a potential refuge for benthic shelf fauna at this time.

Jan Erik Arndt et al.

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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Jan Erik Arndt et al.

Data sets

Swath Bathymetry compilation offshore Brunt Ice Shelf J. E. Arndt and R. D. Larter

Jan Erik Arndt et al.


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Latest update: 02 Apr 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We interpret landforms on the seabed and investigate sediment cores to improve our understanding of the past ice-sheet development in this poorly understood part of Antarctica. Recent crack development of the Brunt Ice Shelf has raised concerns about its stability and the security of the British research station Halley. We describe ramp-shaped bedforms that likely represent ice-shelf grounding and stabilization locations of the past which may reflect an analogue to the process ongoing now.
We interpret landforms on the seabed and investigate sediment cores to improve our understanding...