Abstract

The retreat history of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) since the Last Glacial Maximum is important for understanding the process of rapid deglaciation, constraining models that seek to predict the future trajectory of the ice sheet, and for estimating rates of sea-level change. Here we report new glacial geologic data from the southwestern Weddell Sea embayment that demonstrate that this part of the WAIS was thinner than previously suggested, and that there was progressive thinning of the ice sheet by 230–480 m since ca. 15 ka. We use geomorphological data and a numerical ice sheet model to reconstruct the ice sheet in the Weddell Sea at the Last Glacial Maximum. The volume of this ice would have added between 1.4 and 2.0 m to postglacial sea-level rise and would not have been sufficient to contribute significantly to meltwater pulse 1A, a rapid rise in sea level ∼14,200 yr ago.

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