Abstract

If they had occurred, ice-sheet surges would have caused sea-level rises of up to 50 m from Gondwanaland and say 20 m from Antarctica. The rises would have taken 100 years or much less, and the sub sequent falls would have taken 50 000 years or so, as the ice built up again. Such rises may explain the extensive (hundreds of miles ?) and sharp (submergence time 4 years ?) coal – marine shale contacts in the Carboniferous cyclothems. The chief rival explanation for these contacts is sudden subsidence. Tests should show (1) if such contacts are better correlated with periods of glaciation or with areas of tectonic activity, (2) how extensive the contacts really are, (3) if there is any evidence of erosion during sea-level falls, (4) if the amplitudes and periods of the cycles fit surges or subsidence, (5) how fast the submergences were, and (6) if any coolings began at the contacts. Wilson suggests that in the Pleistocene the surge coolings were sufficient to trigger the northern ice ages. If so, interglacial pollen profiles should show rapid but temporary marine transgressions beginning at the break of climate. Evidence suggesting such transgressions occurs in England and the United States, but is still insufficient to disprove explanations such as local downwarping. There is no evidence yet for surges in Wisconsin or Post-glacial time. There is some evidence that the Antarctic Ice Sheet is currently building up, but this could be a response to a Post-glacial accumulation increase rather than the prelude to a surge.

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