Abstract

Reconstructions of ice sheet fluctuations during the Holocene, which encompassed cooler and warmer conditions than those that are captured in the historic record, help to elucidate ice margin sensitivity to climate change. We used amino acid geochronology to constrain the history of the western Greenland Ice Sheet margin during intervals of relative warmth in the middle Holocene. We measured the extent of amino acid racemization in 251 ice sheet–reworked marine bivalve shells from three locations spanning western Greenland. A significant relationship between shell age and the ratio of aspartic acid (Asp) isomers (Asp D/L) was revealed using Bayesian model fitting on 20 radiocarbon-dated shell fragments. The range of Asp-inferred bivalve ages at each site corresponds well with independent records of early Holocene ice retreat and late Holocene ice advance. Furthermore, the frequency of Asp-inferred bivalve ages from the three widely separated locations is nearly identical, with most ages between 5 and 3 ka, coinciding with optimum oceanic conditions. Because ice margin changes in western Greenland are tightly linked with oceanographic conditions, the distribution of reworked bivalve ages provides important information about relative ice margin position during smaller-than-present ice sheet configurations. This approach adds a new chronometer to our toolkit for constraining smaller-than-present ice sheet configurations and may have wide applicability around Greenland.

You do not currently have access to this article.