Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Preservation of Miocene glacier ice in East Antarctica

Abstract

ANTARCTIC climate during the Pliocene has been the subject of considerable debate. One view holds that, during part of the Pliocene, East Antarctica was largely free of glacier ice and that vegetation survived on the coastal mountains1á¤-4. An alternative viewpoint argues for the development of a stable polar ice sheet by the middle Miocene, which has persisted since then5á¤-10. Here we report the discovery of buried glacier ice in Beacon valley, East Antarctica, which appears to have survived for at least 8.1 million years. We have dated the ice by 40Ar/39Ar analysis of volcanic ash in the thin, overlying glacial till which, we argue, has undergone little (if any) reworking. Isotope and crystal fabric analyses of the ice show that it was derived from an ice sheet. We suggest that stable polar conditions must have persisted in this region for at least 8.1 million years for this ice to have avoided sublimation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. Webb, P. N. & Harwood, D. M. Antarct. J. U.S. 22, 7–11 (1987).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Webb, P. N., Harwood, D. M., McKelvey, B. C., Mercer, J. H. & Stott, L. D. Geology 12, 287–291 (1984).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Barrett, P. J., Adams, C. J., McIntosh, W. C., Swisher, C. C. & Wilson, G. S. Nature 359, 816–818 (1992).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Webb, P. N. & Harwood, D. M. in Forest Development in Cold Climates (eds Alden et al.) 135–165 (Plenum, New York, 1993).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  5. Marchant, D. R., Denton, G. H. & Swisher, C. C. Geogr. Annlr. Stockh. 75A, 269–303 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Marchant, D. R., Denton, G. H., Sugden, D. E. & Swisher, C. C. Geogr. Annlr. Stockh. 75A, 303–330 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Kennett, J. P. Geogr. Annlr. Stockh. 75A, 205–220 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Marchant, D. R., Swisher, C. C., Lux, D. R., West, D. P. Jr & Denton, G. H. Science 260, 667–670 (1993).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Sugden, D. E. Nature 359, 775–776 (1992).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Denton, G. H., Sugden, D. E., Marchant, D. R., Hall, B. L. & Wilch, T. I. Geogr. Annlr. Stockh. 75A, 155–204 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Schwerdtfeger, W. Developments in Atmospheric Science Vol. 15 261 pp (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1984).

    Google Scholar 

  12. Thompson, D. C., Craig, R. M. F. & Bromley, A. M. New Zealand J. Sci. 14, 245–251.

  13. Robinson, P. H. J. Glaciol. 30, 153–160 (1984).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Hendy, C. H., Healy, T. R., Rayner, E. M., Shaw, J. & Wilson, A. T. Quat. Res. 11, 172–184 (1979).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Drewry, D. J. in Antarctic Geoscience (ed. Craddock, C.) 977–983 (Univ. Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1982).

    Google Scholar 

  16. Black, R. F. Quat. Res. 6, 3–26 (1976).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Marchant, D. R., Denton, G. H., Swisher, C. C. & Potter, N. Jr Bull. geol. Soc. Am. (in the press).

  18. Souchez, R. A., Lorrain, R., Tison, J.-L. & Jouzel, J. Ann. Glaciol. 10, 163–166 (1988).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Sugden, D. E. et al. Nature 328, 238–241 (1987).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  20. Alley, R. B., Perepezko, J. H. & Bentley, C. R. J. Glaciol. 32, 425–493 (1986).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  21. Tison, J.-L., Thorsteinsson, T., Lorrain, R. D. & Kipfstuhl, J. Earth planet. Sci. Lett. 125, 421–437 (1994).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  22. Smith, M. W. & Burn, C. R. Cold Regions Science and Technology 13, 143–152 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Cameron, R. E. & Conrow, H. P. Antarct. U.S. 4, 23–28 (1969).

    Google Scholar 

  24. Law, J. & van Dijk, D. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 5, 237–249 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sugden, D., Marchant, D., Potter, N. et al. Preservation of Miocene glacier ice in East Antarctica. Nature 376, 412–414 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1038/376412a0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/376412a0

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing