Abstract

A long-lasting Cenozoic record (∼50 m.y.) of alkaline igneous rocks characterizes northern Victoria Land, Antarctica. Landscape analysis allows distinction between older volcanic and intrusive rocks with well-developed alpine topography sculptured by wet-based glaciers, and younger volcanic cones lacking these features. Many K-Ar and Rb-Sr dates testify that the erosion that formed the alpine landscape ceased between ca. 8.2 and 7.5 Ma. Since ca. 8 Ma, morphological evolution has been driven by cold-based glaciers; warm-based glaciers were no longer active. That this change affected a 300-km-long coastal area suggests a persistent cause of global significance. Glacier dynamics control landscape shaping as a function of ice thickness and temperature, which are driven by climatic conditions. In this view, a significant climatic change occurred in northern Victoria Land between 8.2 and 7.5 Ma. The perfectly preserved serrated alpine ridges, with their delicate spires, testify that no warm-based ice sheets overrode the region after 7.5 Ma and that polar conditions held sway in the Pliocene and Pleistocene Epochs.

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