Tills from moraines adjacent to major ice streams of the Weddell Sea Embayment contain distinct detrital zircon (n = 5304) and K-bearing mineral age populations (n = 323) that, when combined with pebble composition data, can be used to better understand Antarctica’s subglacial geology and ice sheet history. Till representing the Institute, Foundation, Academy, Recovery and Slessor Ice Streams each have distinct detrital zircon age populations. Detrital Ar-Ar ages are mostly younger than zircon ages, and distinctive populations include 270−300 Ma (Institute), 170−190 Ma (Foundation), and 1200−1400 Ma (Recovery), which are not easily explained by known outcrops. Pebble fractions of the Foundation and Academy tills are most diverse with up to >40% exotic erratics. The southern side of the Recovery Glacier has fossiliferous limestone erratics. Mixing models created using a nonlinear squares curve-fitting approach were developed to evaluate contributors of zircons to Foundation Ice Stream till. These model results and pebble lithology data both indicate that unexposed (subglacial) bedrock is mixed with exposed rocks to produce the observed till. Notably, the model required limited local Patuxent Formation input to the Foundation till’s zircon population. Our data suggest that sandstones underlie the Foundation Ice Stream and Recovery Glacier troughs, which has a bearing on basal ice flow conditions and results in geological controls on ice stream location. This geo- and thermo-chronological characterization of the ice streams will enable ice-rafted debris in Weddell Sea marine sediments to be traced back to its sources and interpreted in terms of ice stream dynamics.
Detrital geochronology and lithologic signatures of Weddell Sea Embayment ice streams, Antarctica—Implications for subglacial geology and ice sheet history
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Liana M. Agrios, Kathy J. Licht, Trevor Williams, Sidney R. Hemming, Lauren Welch, Jeremiah L. Mickey; Detrital geochronology and lithologic signatures of Weddell Sea Embayment ice streams, Antarctica—Implications for subglacial geology and ice sheet history. GSA Bulletin 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/B36117.1
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