Enhanced subglacial discharge from Antarctica during meltwater pulse 1A

Tao Li*, Laura F. Robinson, Graeme MacGilchrist, Tianyu Chen, Joseph A. Stewart, Andrea Burke, Maoyu Wang, Jun Chen, James W. B. Rae

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Subglacial discharge from the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) likely played a crucial role in the loss of the ice sheet and the subsequent rise in sea level during the last deglaciation. However, no direct proxy is currently available to document subglacial discharge from the AIS, which leaves significant gaps in our understanding of the complex interactions between subglacial discharge and ice-sheet stability. Here we present deep-sea coral 234U/238U records from the Drake Passage in the Southern Ocean to track subglacial discharge from the AIS. Our findings reveal distinctively higher seawater 234U/238U values from 15,400 to 14,000 years ago, corresponding to the period of the highest iceberg-rafted debris flux and the occurrence of the meltwater pulse 1A event. This correlation suggests a causal link between enhanced subglacial discharge, synchronous retreat of the AIS, and the rapid rise in sea levels. The enhanced subglacial discharge and subsequent AIS retreat appear to have been preconditioned by a stronger and warmer Circumpolar Deep Water, thus underscoring the critical role of oceanic heat in driving major ice-sheet retreat.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7327
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Volume14
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2023

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