Early Last Interglacial ocean warming drove substantial ice mass loss from Antarctica

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Chris Stewart MacGregor Turney , Christopher Fogwill, Nicholas Golledge, Nicholas McKay, Erik van Sebille, Richard Jones, David Etheridge, Mauro Rubino, David Thornton, Siwan Davies


The future response of the Antarctic ice sheets to rising temperatures remains highly uncertain. A valuable analogue for assessing the sensitivity of Antarctica to warming is the Last Interglacial (129-116 kyr), when global sea level peaked 6 to 9 meters above present. Here we report a blue-ice record of ice-sheet and environmental change from the periphery of the marine-based West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). Constrained by a widespread volcanic horizon and supported by ancient microbial DNA analyses, we provide the first direct evidence for Last Interglacial WAIS collapse, driven by ocean warming and associated with destabilization of sub-glacial hydrates. Ice-sheet modelling supports this interpretation and suggests a 2˚C warming of the Southern Ocean over a millennia could trigger a ~3.2 meter rise in global sea levels. Our data indicate Antarctica is highly vulnerable to projected increases in ocean temperatures and may drive ice-climate feedbacks that further amplify warming.




Earth Sciences, Glaciology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Antarctica, Heinrich event, ice sheet, ancient DNA (aDNA), Antarctic, Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW), Antarctic Ice Sheets (AIS), Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), Bipolar seesaw, East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), Eemian, Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, Heinrich 11, Last Interglacial, North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW), ocean warming, Polar amplification, Super-interglacial, tephra, West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS)


Published: 2018-12-07 12:46


GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) 2.1

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