Blog Archive

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Collapse of polar ice sheets during the stage 11 interglacial" by Maureen E. Raymo & Jerry X. Mitrovica, Nature 483 (March 2012); doi: 10.1038/nature10891

Nature483453–456 (22 March 2012); doi: 10.1038/nature10891

Collapse of polar ice sheets during the stage 11 interglacial


Contentious observations of Pleistocene shoreline features on the tectonically stable islands of Bermuda and the Bahamas have suggested that sea level about 400,000 years ago was more than 20 metres higher than it is today1234. Geochronologic and geomorphic evidence indicates that these features formed during interglacial marine isotope stage (MIS) 11, an unusually long interval of warmth during the ice age1234. Previous work has advanced two divergent hypotheses for these shoreline features: first, significant melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, in addition to the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the Greenland Ice Sheet123; or second, emplacement by a mega-tsunami during MIS 11 (ref. 45). Here we show that the elevations of these features are corrected downwards by ~10 metres when we account for post-glacial crustal subsidence of these sites over the course of the anomalously long interglacial. On the basis of this correction, we estimate that eustatic sea level rose to ~6–13m above the present-day value in the second half of MIS 11. This suggests that both the Greenland Ice Sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed during the protracted warm period while changes in the volume of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet were relatively minor, thereby resolving the long-standing controversy over the stability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet during MIS 11. 


birdbrainscan said...

Thanks for this link - looks like a neat piece of work. Dr. Mitrovica spoke here recently. I hadn't seen the claims of +20m, but this paper looks to advance our understanding of this event by working in crust displacement at a distance from areas undergoing isostatic rebound after deglaciation.

Tenney Naumer said...

Thanks for your comment.

It's pretty important work.

Warmer water around Antarctica is melting away the underpinnings of the Thwaite and Pine Island Glaciers -- I think they're a bit like the cork in the bottle.