Evidence for a Highly Dynamic West Antarctic Ice Sheet During the Pliocene

IODP Expedition 379 Scientists

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Major ice loss in the Amundsen Sea sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is hypothesized to have triggered ice sheet collapses during past warm periods such as those in the Pliocene. International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 379 recovered continuous late Miocene to Holocene sediments from a sediment drift on the continental rise, allowing assessment of sedimentation processes in response to climate cycles and trends since the late Miocene. Via seismic correlation to the shelf, we interpret massive prograding sequences that extended the outer shelf by 80 km during the Pliocene through frequent advances of grounded ice. Buried grounding zone wedges indicate prolonged periods of ice-sheet retreat, or even collapse, during an extended mid-Pliocene warm period from ∼4.2–3.2 Ma inferred from Expedition 379 records. These results indicate that the WAIS was highly dynamic during the Pliocene and major retreat events may have occurred along the Amundsen Sea margin.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021GL093103
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number14
StatePublished - 28 Jul 2021


  • Amundsen Sea Embayment
  • IODP Expedition 379
  • Pliocene climate
  • West Antarctic Ice Sheet
  • grounding zone wedge
  • seismic stratigraphy


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