Early to middle Miocene ice sheet dynamics in the westernmost Ross Sea (Antarctica): Regional correlations
The present-day morpho-stratigraphy of the Ross Sea is the result of Cenozoic tectonic and cryospheric events, and constitutes a key record of Antarctica's cryospheric evolution. An enduring problem in interpreting this record in a broader regional context is that the correlation between eastern and western Ross Sea stratigraphy has remained uncertain due to the limited number of drill sites. We correlate the glacial-related features observed on a dense network of seismic reflection profiles in McMurdo Sound with those identified in the Nordenskjöld and Drygalski Basins, as well as the basins farther east in the central Ross Sea. We present an improved correlation of the regional patterns of early to middle Miocene ice-sheet variance across the Ross Sea constrained by new evaluation of seismic facies and age models from one site recovered by the Antarctic Drilling Project (ANDRILL) in the southwestern most part of McMurdo Sound. We also integrate this correlation with the recently published seismic framework in the central Ross Sea. The formation of U-shaped valleys during the early Miocene in McMurdo Sound, together with prograding sedimentary wedges in the western-most basins, and the central Ross Sea, suggest two major phases of overall advance of a marine-terminating ice sheet between ~18 Ma and ~17.4 Ma. Widespread formation of turbiditic channel-levee systems in McMurdo Sound and rapid sediment deposition in Nordernskjöld Basin point to subsequent ice-sheet retreat between ~17.4 Ma and ~15.8 Ma, coinciding with the onset of the Miocene Climate Optimum (MCO; ~17–14.5 Ma). However, the carving of troughs and formation of irregular morphologic features suggest that an extensive ice sheet still remained along the western Ross margin at ~17.4 Ma and a brief episode of ice-sheet advance occurred at ~16.8 Ma in the earliest interval of the MCO. Subsequent marine-based ice sheet advance during the Middle Miocene Climate Transition (MMCT, ~14.0–13.8 Ma) is indicated by widespread erosional features. Our results reconcile the semi-continouous seismic and drill core stratigraphy of the offshore Ross Sea continental shelf with inferences of ice sheet dynamics from continuous far-field deep sea and sea level records, as well as the highly discontinous (and heavily debated) onshore records of pre-MMCT glaciation and aridification of the Transantarctic Mountains at 14 Ma.