Correlating flexural moat subsidence with grounding line fluctuations around Ross Island, Antarctica

Friday, 19 December 2014
Sumant Jha1, Dennis Lee Harry1 and Christopher Paul Wenman2, (1)Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, United States, (2)Colorado State University, Geosciences, Fort Collins, CO, United States
The southern Ross Sea basin in West Antarctica has been filled up with a complex sedimentary sequence since ~5 Ma containing a mixture of glacial and glacio-marine strata and flexural basin infill. These strata record past climatically influenced advances and retreats of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the volcanic loading history of Ross Island.

We hypothesize that the amplitude of flexural uplift of the seafloor caused by volcanic loading on Ross Island was sufficient to cause fluctuations of the ice grounding line position, creating false positives in the climate change interpretations derived from the nearby ANDRILL AND-1B core data.

To test this hypothesis, we model flexural deformation and subsidence due to individual volcanic loading episodes on Ross Island. We constrain this model by three seismic horizons (Rsb1, Rsb2, and Rsb3) imaged on seismic profile NBP0401-126m, which trends radially away from Ross Island and across its flexural moat. The horizons bound wedge shaped strata filling the moat during flexural depositional episodes, and range in depth (age) from 146 m-153 m (~2.1 Ma), 282 m-308 m (~3.0 Ma) and 432 m- 463 m (4.3 ± 0.3 Ma) respectively.

Our flexure model suggests that AND-1B lies in the flexural moat of the Ross Island flexure basin. Horizons Rsb2 and Rsb3 record the flexural subsidence of the basin during Mt. Bird volcanic loading on Ross Island. Rsb2 and RSb3 correlate with upward changes from diamictites to diatomites and mudstones in the AND-1B stratigraphic record. This lithological change has been interpreted to represent a change from grounded ice to open marine conditions, and a shift in the ice sheet grounding line position. Therefore, our results suggest that the magnitude of flexural subsidence in the flexural moat was sufficient to cause changes from grounded to floating ice at the AND-1B.