Climate of the Past (Aug 2023)

An age scale for new climate records from Sherman Island, West Antarctica

  • I. Rowell,
  • I. Rowell,
  • C. Martin,
  • R. Mulvaney,
  • H. Pryer,
  • D. Tetzner,
  • E. Doyle,
  • H. M. Talasila,
  • J. Li,
  • E. Wolff

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 19
pp. 1699 – 1714


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Few ice cores from the Amundsen Sea and Bellingshausen Sea sectors of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) extend back in time further than a few hundred years. The WAIS is believed to be susceptible to collapse as a result of anthropogenic climate change and may have at least partially collapsed during the Last Interglacial (LIG) period. Understanding the stability of the WAIS during warm periods such as the LIG and Holocene is important. As part of the WACSWAIN (WArm Climate Stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet in the last INterglacial) project, the British Antarctic Survey's (BAS) Rapid Access Isotope Drill (RAID) was deployed in 2020 on Sherman Island in the Abbot Ice Shelf, West Antarctica. We drilled a 323 m deep borehole, with discrete samples of ice chippings collected that cover the entire depth range of the drilled ice. The samples were analysed for stable water isotope composition and major ion content at BAS from 2020–2022. Using annual layer counting of chemical records, volcanic horizon identification and ice modelling, an age scale for the record of 1724 discrete samples is presented. The Sherman Island ice record extends back to greater than 1240 years, providing the oldest, continuous ice-derived palaeoclimate records in the coastal Amundsen and Bellingshausen Sea sectors to date. We demonstrate the potential for recovery of a complete Holocene climate record from Sherman Island in the future and confidence in the ability of RAID samples to contain sufficiently resolved records for meaningful climatic interpretation.