In the Ross Sea sector of Antarctica, periodic large-scale marine ice-sheet fluctuations since the mid-Miocene are recorded by drill core and seismic data, revealing a dynamic ice-sheet response to past increases in temperature and atmospheric CO2. In the adjacent, predominantly ice-free McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDVs), preserved terrestrial landscapes reflect persistent cold conditions and have been interpreted as indicators of a stable polar ice sheet, implying that the Antarctic Ice Sheet was largely insensitive during past warm periods. These disparate data-based perspectives highlight a long-standing debate around the past stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, with direct implications for the future ice-sheet response to ongoing climate warming. We reconcile marine records of dynamic ice-sheet behavior and episodic open-marine conditions with nearby ancient terrestrial landscapes recording consistent cold-polar conditions. Coupled ice-sheet and regional climate models nested at a high resolution are used to investigate surface temperatures in the MDVs during past warm periods. We find that high-elevation regions of the MDVs remain below freezing even when ice-free conditions prevail in the nearby Ross Sea. We compare observed landscapes with the spatial extent of modeled persistent cold conditions required for preservation of these ancient features, demonstrating that frozen MDVs landscapes could have coexisted with receded or collapsed ice sheets during past warm periods.

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