Abstract

Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent on Earth, and contains sand dunes, like deserts elsewhere. The structure and age of the cold climate dunes found in the Victoria Valley, Antarctica, are described in the light of changing climate in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica during the late Holocene. Ground penetrating radar (GPR) was used to image sand dune stratigraphy, and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) was used to determine when the sands were deposited. The timing of sand dune accretion identified from the GPR stratigraphy ranges from the present day to ca. 1.3 kyr B.P. The OSL ages were used to calculate end-point migration rates of 0.05–1.5 m/yr, lower than migration rates from photogrammetry and field surveys undertaken over the past 50 yr. The earliest recorded dune development, ca. 1.3 kyr B.P., was probably controlled by intensification of circumpolar westerlies at that time as well as by drier conditions and lower temperatures that promoted dune stabilization. The dune reactivation ca. 300 yr ago coincides with cooling ca. A.D. 1700–1850, and strengthening of southern circumpolar westerlies. The increase in rate of dune migration after this period and especially the past 200 yr may coincide with the modern rise in CO2 and the warmest temperatures in Antarctica during the past 800 kyr.

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