Abstract

The long-term behavior of the East and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, and their respective responses to forcing provide essential context for assessment of modern dynamic changes in ice-flow regimes and ice-sheet and shelf margins. The western Ross Sea discharges ice from both the East and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, and the paleoglacial record from this region is therefore valuable in unraveling their long-term behavior. New, high-resolution multibeam bathymetric data reveal snapshots of well-preserved glacial landforms on the seafloor around Ross Island and McMurdo Sound. Glacial lineations, grounding zone wedges, draped recessional moraines, and meltwater channels record a series of different ice-flow events in the region, contradictions between which require major phases of ice-flow reorganization. From the glacial geomorphology, we reconstruct a four-stage model of ice-flow evolution for the last glacial cycle, consisting of: (1) northeastward flow into the Ross Sea from McMurdo Sound; (2) westward flow from the Ross Sea, around Ross Island, and onto the Victoria Land coast and coastal seafloor trough; (3) a deglacial phase of ice-sheet thinning, minor shifts in flow, and grounding line retreat into McMurdo Sound; and (4) grounding line pinning on Ross Island during regional retreat, uncoupling of a remnant Ross Island ice cap, and local oscillation of Victoria Land outlet glaciers. We find that East Antarctic Ice Sheet ice discharge had a strong influence on ice-flow geometry in this part of the Ross Sea during the last glacial stage, but that it was not necessarily in phase with the behavior of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. It is similarly evident that the ice streams that drained the Ross Sea over the continental shelf at the Last Glacial Maximum did not all operate synchronously, and exerted different drawdown power at different times. Finally, we conclude that Ross Island acts as an important pinning point in the Ross Sea ice-sheet–shelf system, stabilizing grounding line retreat and encouraging lasting ice-shelf development.

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