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West Antarctic ice volume variability paced by obliquity until 400,000 years ago

Abstract

Benthic foraminiferal oxygen isotopic and ice core records have been interpreted to indicate that Antarctic ice volume variations began to be paced by 100,000-year-long eccentricity cycles about 800,000 years ago. However, this interpretation has never been confirmed from sedimentological reconstructions of ice margin advance and retreat cycles around Antarctica. Here we present sedimentological and palaeomagnetic records from a 6.21-metre-long sediment core spanning the last 1.1 million years that track the proximity of the ice margin in the Ross Embayment. The advance and retreat of the Ross Ice Shelf—and by extension the West Antarctic Ice Sheet—are found to have been primarily paced by 41,000-year-long obliquity cycles until at least 400,000 years ago. We suggest that high-latitude insolationcontrolled Southern Ocean heat uptake and continued to be the main pacemaker of Antarctic glaciations well into the late Pleistocene. Insolation was predicted to control Antarctic ice volume; however, the frequency of glacial cycles inferred from distal records suggested that the 100,000-year-long cycle dominated, implying that other forcing mechanisms were at play. Our study reconciles the historical mismatch between the inferred glacial cycles and the insolation record.

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Fig. 1: Location maps of core sites and bathymetric geomorphic features discussed in the text.
Fig. 2: NBP03-01A-20A stratigraphic record and orbital and climate reference records.
Fig. 3: EPSA results of time series data.

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Acknowledgements

We thank curators, staff and students of the Antarctic Marine Geology Research Facility, Florida State University, for assistance with sample collection. R. McKay provided guidance as we developed the IBRD record, and G. Kerr assisted in preparation of reagents for biogenic silica dissolution. This project was funded by the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI, 2015-5) with additional support from a University of Otago Research Grant (2017) and the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment through the Antarctic Science Platform (ANTA1801).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

Conceptualization is by C.O. and C.L.H. C.O., C.L.H., C.B. and C.R.R. wrote and edited the manuscript. Sedimentary data were collected by C.O., D.B.C., R.A.W. and C.B. Magnetic data were collected by C.O. and R.A.W. Time series analyses were conducted by C.O. Diatom analyses were conducted by C.R.R., and C.M.M. provided guidance on sedimentary analysis.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christian Ohneiser.

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Nature Geoscience thanks Reed Scherer, Gerhard Kuhn, Luigi Jovane and Leonardo Sagnotti and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Primary Handling Editor(s): James Super, in collaboration with the Nature Geoscience team.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 NBP03-01A-20A magnetostratigraphy and magnetic properties.

NBP03-01A-20A magnetostratigraphy and magnetic properties. (a) Downcore Characteristic Remanent Magnetisation (ChRM) inclination, (b) Maximum Angular Deviation (MAD), (c) magnetic polarity zonations (black intervals are normal polarity, white zones represent reversed polarity), (d) Natural Remanent Magnetisation (NRM), (e) Anhysteretic Remanent Magnetisation (ARM), Hysteresis derived (f) Remanent Magnetisation (Mr), (g) Saturation Magnetisation (Ms), (h) Coercivity (Bc), and (i) Isothermal Remanence Coercivity of remanence (Bcr). MAD values are low for the most part (<10°) indicating good quality demagnetisation data with a very low noise level and Bcr is low with an average of c. 30-40 mT indicating low coercivity minerals are dominant in the fine-grained sediments. Bcr values are not indicative of magnetic mineralogy of drop stones.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Representative alternating field demagnetisation behaviour for normal and reversed polarity samples.

Representative alternating field demagnetisation behaviour for normal and reversed polarity samples. All samples have a low coercivity viscous overprint which is demagnetised in the first few steps. Normal polarity samples (a-c) have very low Maximum Angular Deviation (MAD) values of <5°. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was conducted on data between c. 15 mT and 40 mT. (d) a reversed polarity sample with a low MAD of 2.04°. The calculated Geocentric Axial Dipolar (GAD) inclination of the geomagnetic field at the core site should be c. -82° or 82° for normal and reversed polarity respectively. E and F are examples of poor data quality between 4.6 m and 5.1 m depth. E show an unstable magnetization and F shows a strongly magnetized, high coercivity interval, which likely indicates the presence of a IBRD clast.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 3 Rock magnetic data from NBP03-01A-20A.

Rock magnetic data from NBP03-01A-20A (a). Day plot of hysteresis and Isothermal Remanent Magnetisation (IRM) analyses indicating Pseudo Single Domain grains of Magnetite. (b) six selected hysteresis analyses showing changes in concentration. First Order Reversals Curve (FORC) analyses (c and d) indicate mixtures of single and pseudo single domain magnetite grains are dominant.

Source data

Extended Data Table 1 Magneto-biostratigraphic tie points for NBP03-01A-20A

Source data

Source Data Fig. 2

Palaeomagnetic, rock magnetic data and micro IBRD data.

Source Data Extended Data Fig. 2

Palaeomagnetic, rock magnetic data and micro IBRD data.

Source Data Extended Data Fig. 3

FORC_NBP03-01A-20A 5.5–6 m first-order reversals curve data for 5.5–6 m. FORC_NBP03-01A-20A 0.27-1m first-order reversals curve data for 0.27–1 m.

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Ohneiser, C., Hulbe, C.L., Beltran, C. et al. West Antarctic ice volume variability paced by obliquity until 400,000 years ago. Nat. Geosci. 16, 44–49 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-022-01088-w

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