The long-term history of glaciation along the East Antarctic Wilkes Land margin, from the time of the first arrival of the ice sheet to the margin, through the significant periods of Cenozoic climate change is inferred using an integrated geophysical and geological approach. We postulate that the first arrival of the ice sheet to the Wilkes Land margin resulted in the development of a large unconformity (WL-U3) between 33.42 and 30 Ma during the early Oligocene cooling climate trend. Above WL-U3, substantial margin progradation takes place with early glacial strata (e.g., outwash deposits) deposited as low-angle prograding foresets by temperate glaciers. The change in geometry of the prograding wedge across unconformity WL-U8 is interpreted to represent the transition, at the end of the middle Miocene "climatic optimum" (14-10 Ma), from a subpolar regime with dynamic ice sheets (i.e., ice sheets come and go) to a regime with persistent but oscillatory ice sheets. The steep foresets above WL-U8 likely consist of ice proximal sediments (i.e., water-lain till and debris flows) deposited when grounded ice-sheets extended into the shelf. On the continental rise, shelf progradation above WL-U3 results in an up-section increase in the energy of the depositional environment (i.e., seismic facies indicative of more proximal turbidite and of bottom contour current deposition from the deposition of the lower WL-S5 sequence to WL-S7). Maximum rates of sediment delivery to the rise occur during the development of sequences WL-S6 and WL-S7, which we infer to be of middle Miocene age. During deposition of the two uppermost sequences, WL-S8 and WL-S9, there is a marked decrease in the sediment supply to the lower continental rise and a shift in the depocenters to more proximal areas of the margin. We believe WL-S8 records sedimentation during the final transition from a dynamic to a persistent but oscillatory ice sheet in this margin (14-10 Ma). Sequence WL-S9 forms under a polar regime during the Pliocene-Pleistocene, when most sediment delivered to the margin is trapped in the outer shelf and slope-forming steep prograding wedges. During the warmer but still polar, Holocene, biogenic sediment accumulates quickly in deep inner-shelf basins during the high-stand intervals. These sediments contain an ultrahigh resolution (annual to millennial) record of climate variability. Validation of our inferences about the nature and timing of Wilkes Land glacial sequences can be achieved by deep sampling (i.e., using IODP-type techniques). The most complete record of the long-term history of glaciation in this margin can be obtained by sampling both (1) the shelf, which contains the direct (presence or no presence of ice) but low-resolution record of glaciation, and (2) the rise, which contains the distal (cold vs. warm) but more complete record of glaciation. The Wilkes Land margin is the only known Antarctic margin where the presumed "onset" of glaciation unconformity (WL-U3) can be traced from shelf to the abyssal plain, allowing links between the proximal and the distal records of glaciation to be established. Additionally, the eastern segment of the Wilkes Land margin may be more sensitive to climate change because the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) is grounded below sea level. Therefore, the Wilkes Land margin is not only an ideal location to obtain the long-term EAIS history but also to obtain the shorter-term record of ice sheet fluctuations at times that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is thought to have been more stable (after 15 Ma-recent). ?? 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Cenozoic ice sheet history from East Antarctic Wilkes Land continental margin sediments