Review article: Existing and potential evidence for Holocene grounding line retreat and readvance in Antarctica

Joanne S. Johnson*, Ryan A. Venturelli, Greg Balco, Claire S. Allen, Scott Braddock, Seth Campbell, Brent M. Goehring, Brenda L. Hall, Peter D. Neff, Keir A. Nichols, Dylan H. Rood, Elizabeth R. Thomas, John Woodward

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Widespread existing geological records from above the modern ice-sheet surface and outboard of the current ice margin show that the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) was much more extensive at the Last Glacial Maximum (~20 ka) than at present. However, whether it was ever smaller than present during the last few millennia, and (if so) by how much, is known only for a few locations because direct evidence lies within or beneath the ice sheet, which is challenging to access. Here, we describe how retreat and readvance (henceforth “readvance”) of AIS grounding lines during the Holocene could be detected and quantified using subglacial bedrock, subglacial sediments, marine sediment cores, relative sea-level (RSL) records, radar data, and ice cores. Of these, only subglacial bedrock and subglacial sediments can provide direct evidence for readvance. Marine archives are of limited utility because readvance commonly covers evidence of earlier retreat. Nevertheless, stratigraphic transitions documenting change in environment may provide support for direct evidence from subglacial records, as can the presence of transgressions in RSL records. With independent age control, past changes in ice structure and flow patterns revealed by radar can be used to infer ice volume changes commensurate with readvance. Since ice cores capture changes in surface mass balance, elevation, and changes in atmospheric and oceanic circulation that are known to drive grounding-line migration, they also have potential for identifying readvance. A multidisciplinary approach is likely to provide the strongest evidence for or against a smaller-than-present AIS in the Holocene.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1543–1562
Number of pages20
JournalThe Cryosphere
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2022


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