Morphology and stratal geometry of the Antarctic continental shelf: Insights from models

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Abstract

Reconstruction of past ice-sheet fluctuations from the stratigraphy of glaciated continental shelves requires understanding of the relationships among the stratal geometry, glacial and marine sedimentary processes, and ice dynamics. We investigate the formation of the morphology and the broad stratal geometry of topsets on the Antarctic continental shelf with numerical models. Our models assume that the stratal geometry and morphology are principally the results of time-integrated effects of glacial erosion and sedimentation related to the location of the seaward edge of the grounded ice. The location of the grounding line varies with time almost randomly across the shelf. With these simple assumptions, the models can successfully mimic salient features of the morphology and the stratal geometry. The models suggest that the current shelf has gradually evolved to its present geometry by many glacial advances and retreats of the grounding line to different locations across the shelf. The locations of the grounding line do not appear to be linearly correlated with either fluctuations in the 5 l s O record (which presumably represents changes in the global ice volume) or with the global sea-level curve, suggesting that either a more complex relationship exists or local effects dominate. The models suggest that erosion of preglacial sediments is confined to the inner shelf, and erosion decreases and deposition increases toward the shelf edge. Some of the deposited glacial sediments must be derived from continental erosion. The sediments probably undergo extensive transport and reworking obliterating much of the evidence for their original depositional environment. The flexural rigidity and the tectonic subsidence of the underlying lithosphere modify the bathymetry of the shelf, but probably have little effect on the stratal geometry. Our models provide several guidelines for the interpretation of unconformities, the nature of preserved topset deposits, and the significance of progradation versus aggradation of shelf sediments.

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Morphology and stratal geometry of the Antarctic continental shelf: Insights from models
DOI 10.1029/AR068p0001
Volume 68
Year Published 1997
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 24 p.
Larger Work Title Geology and Seismic Stratigraphy of the Antarctic Margin
First page 1
Last page 24