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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 8
The Cryosphere, 12, 2741–2757, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-12-2741-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
The Cryosphere, 12, 2741–2757, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-12-2741-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 24 Aug 2018

Research article | 24 Aug 2018

West Antarctic sites for subglacial drilling to test for past ice-sheet collapse

Perry Spector1,2, John Stone1, David Pollard3, Trevor Hillebrand1, Cameron Lewis4, and Joel Gombiner1 Perry Spector et al.
  • 1Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  • 2Berkeley Geochronology Center, 2455 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 3Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
  • 4Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS), University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA

Abstract. Mass loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is increasing, and there is concern that an incipient large-scale deglaciation of the marine basins may already be underway. Measurements of cosmogenic nuclides in subglacial bedrock surfaces have the potential to establish whether and when the marine-based portions of the WAIS deglaciated in the past. However, because most of the bedrock revealed by ice-sheet collapse would remain below sea level, shielded from the cosmic-ray flux, drill sites for subglacial sampling must be located in areas where thinning of the residual ice sheet would expose presently subglacial bedrock surfaces. In this paper we discuss the criteria and considerations for choosing drill sites where subglacial samples will provide maximum information about WAIS extent during past interglacial periods. We evaluate candidate sites in West Antarctica and find that sites located adjacent to the large marine basins of West Antarctica will be most diagnostic of past ice-sheet collapse. There are important considerations for drill site selection on the kilometer scale that can only be assessed by field reconnaissance. As a case study of these considerations, we describe reconnaissance at sites in West Antarctica, focusing on the Pirrit Hills, where in the summer of 2016–2017 an 8 m bedrock core was retrieved from below 150 m of ice.

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Cosmogenic-nuclide analyses in bedrock recovered from below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have the potential to establish whether and when large-scale deglaciation occurred in the past. Here we (i) discuss the criteria and considerations for subglacial drill sites, (ii) evaluate candidate sites in West Antarctica, and (iii) describe reconnaissance at three West Antarctic sites, focusing on the Pirrit Hills, which we present as a case study of site selection on the scale of an individual nunatak.
Cosmogenic-nuclide analyses in bedrock recovered from below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have...
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