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Reconstruction of ice-sheet changes in the Antarctic Peninsula since the Last Glacial Maximum

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Bethan DaviesORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This paper compiles and reviews marine and terrestrial data constraining the dimensions and configuration of the Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet (APIS) from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) through deglaciation to the present day. These data are used to reconstruct grounding-line retreat in 5ka time-steps from 25kaBP to present. Glacial landforms and subglacial tills on the eastern and western Antarctic Peninsula (AP) shelf indicate that the APIS was grounded to the outer shelf/shelf edge at the LGM and contained a series of fast-flowing ice streams that drained along cross-shelf bathymetric troughs. The ice sheet was grounded at the shelf edge until ~20calkaBP. Chronological control on retreat is provided by radiocarbon dates on glacimarine sediments from the shelf troughs and on lacustrine and terrestrial organic remains, as well as cosmogenic nuclide dates on erratics and ice moulded bedrock. Retreat in the east was underway by about 18calkaBP. The earliest dates on recession in the west are from Bransfield Basin where recession was underway by 17.5calkaBP. Ice streams were active during deglaciation at least until the ice sheet had pulled back to the mid-shelf. The timing of initial retreat decreased progressively southwards along the western AP shelf; the large ice stream in Marguerite Trough may have remained grounded at the shelf edge until about 14calkaBP, although terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide ages indicate that thinning had commenced by 18kaBP. Between 15 and 10calkaBP the APIS underwent significant recession along the western AP margin, although retreat between individual troughs was asynchronous. Ice in Marguerite Trough may have still been grounded on the mid-shelf at 10calkaBP. In the Larsen-A region the transition from grounded to floating ice was established by 10.7-10.6calkaBP. The APIS had retreated towards its present configuration in the western AP by the mid-Holocene but on the eastern peninsula may have approached its present configuration several thousand years earlier, by the start of the Holocene. Mid to late-Holocene retreat was diachronous with stillstands, re-advances and changes in ice-shelf configuration being recorded in most places. Subglacial topography exerted a major control on grounding-line retreat with grounding-zone wedges, and thus by inference slow-downs or stillstands in the retreat of the grounding line, occurring in some cases on reverse bed slopes. © 2014 The Authors.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ocofaigh CO, Davies BJ, Livingstone SJ, Smith JA, Johnson JS, Hocking EP, Hodgson DA, Anderson JB, Bentley MJ, Canals M, Domack E, Dowdeswell JA, Evans J, Glasser NF, Hillenbrand C-D, Larter RD, Roberts SJ, Simms AR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Quaternary Science Reviews

Year: 2014

Volume: 100

Pages: 87-110

Print publication date: 15/09/2014

Online publication date: 07/08/2014

Acceptance date: 18/06/2014

Date deposited: 22/08/2022

ISSN (print): 0277-3791

ISSN (electronic): 1873-457X

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.06.023


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Funder referenceFunder name
Catalonian government.
MINECO Polar Research Area
Spanish National Antarctic Program
UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC
USA National Science Foundation (Office of Polar Programs)