Seismic Stratigraphy of Ice Sheet Advance-Retreat Cycles on the Sabrina Coast Continental Shelf, East Antarctica
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
2D multichannel seismic (MCS), multibeam and CHIRP data were collected as part of the recent R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP1402) cruise to investigate the marine record of cryosphere-ocean dynamics on the continental shelf between the Dalton Ice Tongue and Totten Glacier systems. Outlet glaciers and ice shelves along this coastline drain a catchment area extending across the Aurora Subglacial Basin (ASB) whose topography lies below sea level and contains an ice volume of approximately 6.9m of sea level rise equivalent. Analysis of over 750km of high-resolution MCS data has revealed the preservation of extensive tilted fluvial-deltaic shelf sedimentation and the first evidence of polythermal glacial advance in this region with well-preserved subglacial meltwater channels and tunnel valley systems. This expansive fluvial to glacial sedimentary section is separated by a regional unconformity from a series of irregular, localized unconformities preserved in an otherwise seismically transparent facies. We interpret these transparent facies as subglacial diamictites deposited over several glacial cycles. Detailed seismic stratigraphic analysis of the glacial sequences above the regional unconformity identified at least 4 glacial cycles illustrated by grounding zone wedge moraine deposits recorded in both MCS and multibeam bathymetric data. Distinct differences were evident in the stratigraphic architecture of polar versus polythermal glaciations including greater preservation of till deposits above the regional unconformity proximal to the exposed bedrock boundary and the present-day ice front. Sedimentary sequence preservation here appears dictated by the geometry of local ice advance and allied basement structure controls. Integration of marine geology, high resolution CHIRP and multibeam bathymetry data with MCS sequence geometry and acoustic facies mapping has led to improved constraints on rates, styles and patterns of glacial retreat. Such improvements to deformable sediment distribution and lithologic character constraints are critical to numerical ice sheet model flow velocities and potential instability assessments, and continue to advance our understanding of ice sheet dynamics and basal conditions across both heavily fjorded and uniform basement architectures.