Project Information
History of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet since the mid-Miocene: New Evidence from Provenance of Ice-rafted Debris
Intellectual Merit:
The PIs propose to study the stability and dynamics of the East Antarctic ice sheet during the Pliocene in the area of the Wilkes and Aurora subglacial basins. Models indicate the ice sheet is most sensitive to warming in these low-lying areas. This study is important as there is very little direct evidence about which parts of the East Antarctic ice sheet became unstable under warm conditions. In a pilot study the PIs have shown that the isotopic geochemical signature of downcore ice-rafted debris (IRD) can be linked to continental source areas indicating which parts of the ice sheet reached the coast and calved IRD-bearing icebergs. Their initial results suggest rapid iceberg discharge from the Wilkes Land and Adélie Land coastal areas at times in the late Miocene and early Pliocene. In this study the PIs will analyze IRD from IODP sediment cores collected on the continental rise off East Antarctica. By analyzing 40Ar/39Ar ages of hornblende IRD grains, U-Pb ages of zircons, and Sm-Nd isotopes of the fine fraction of several IRD-rich layers for each core, they will be able to fingerprint continental source areas that will indicated ice extent and dynamics on East Antarctica. The PIs will also carry out detailed studies across a few of these layers to characterize the anatomy of the ice-rafting event and better understand the mechanism of ice destabilization.

Broader impacts:
The data collected will be important for scientists in a broad variety of fields. The project will involve one undergraduate student and one summer intern at LDEO, and a graduate student at Imperial College London. The project will expose to cutting edge methodologies as well as an international research team. Data from the project will be deposited in the online databases (SedDB) and all results and methods will be made available to the scientific community through publications in peer-reviewed journals and attendance at international conferences.
Person Role
Williams, Trevor Investigator
Hemming, Sidney R. Co-Investigator
Antarctic Earth Sciences Award # 0944489
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
1 (processed data)
  1. Licht, K. J., & Hemming, S. R. (2017). Analysis of Antarctic glacigenic sediment provenance through geochemical and petrologic applications. Quaternary Science Reviews, 164, 1–24. (doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.03.009)
  2. Cook, C. P., Hemming, S. R., van de Flierdt, T., Pierce Davis, E. L., Williams, T., Galindo, A. L., … Escutia, C. (2017). Glacial erosion of East Antarctica in the Pliocene: A comparative study of multiple marine sediment provenance tracers. Chemical Geology, 466, 199–218. (doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2017.06.011)
  3. Cook, C. P., Hill, D. J., van de Flierdt, T., Williams, T., Hemming, S. R., Dolan, A. M., … Gonzales, J. J. (2014). Sea surface temperature control on the distribution of far-traveled Southern Ocean ice-rafted detritus during the Pliocene. Paleoceanography, 29(6), 533–548. (doi:10.1002/2014pa002625)
Platforms and Instruments

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