The impact of dynamic topography change on Antarctic Ice Sheet stability during the Mid-Pliocene Warm Period
Abstract:The mid-Pliocene warm period (MPWP; ~ 3Ma), characterized by globally elevated temperatures (2-3º C) and carbon dioxide levels of ~400ppm, is commonly used as a testing ground for investigating ice sheet stability in a slightly warmer world. The central, unanswered question in this regard is the extent of East Antarctic melting during the MPWP. Here we assess the potential role of dynamic topography on this issue.
Model reconstructions of the evolution of the Antarctic ice sheet during the ice age require an estimate of bedrock elevation through time. Ice sheet models account for changes in bedrock elevation due to glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA), often using simplified models of the GIA process, but they generally do not consider other processes that may perturb subglacial topography. One such notable process is dynamic topography, i.e. the deflection of the solid surface of the Earth due to convective flow and buoyancy variations within the mantle and lithosphere. Paleo-shorelines of Pliocene age reflect the influence of dynamic topography, but the impact of these bedrock elevation changes on ice sheet stability in the Antarctic region is unknown.
In this study we use viscous flow simulations of mantle dynamics to predict changes in dynamic topography and reconstruct bedrock elevations below the Antarctic Ice Sheet since the MPWP. We furthermore couple this reconstruction to a three-dimensional ice sheet model in order to explore the impact of dynamic topography on the extent of the Antarctic Ice Sheet during the Pliocene. Our modeling indicates that uplift occurred in the area of the Transantarctic Mountains and the adjacent Wilkes Basin. This predicted uplift, which is consistent with geological inferences of uplift in the Transantarctic Mountains, implies a significantly (~100-200 m) lower elevation of the Wilkes Basin in the Pliocene. This lower elevation leads to ~400 km of additional retreat of the grounding line in this region relative to simulations that do not include dynamic topography, a result that is consistent with inferences from offshore sediment core data.