Project Information
Collaborative Research: Fluctuations of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in Relation to Lake History in Taylor Valley, Antarctica, Since the Last Glacial Maximum
This award supports a project to examine the stratigraphy of near-surface sediments in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Two contrasting hypotheses have been proposed for surface sediments in lower Taylor Valley, which have important and very different implications for how the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) responded to the sea-level rise of the last deglaciation and Holocene environmental changes. One hypothesis holds that the sediments, designated Ross I drift, directly reflect >10,000 14C-years of WAIS shrinkage in the Ross Sea during and perhaps driven by deglacial sea-level rise. The other hypothesis, holds that the Taylor sediments have little significance for WAIS change during the deglaciation. These two hypotheses reflect fundamentally different interpretations of the sediment record. Over the course of two field seasons and a third year at the home institutions, the project will test these two hypotheses using glacial geology, geochemistry, ground penetrating radar (GPR) at both 100 MHz and 400 MHz, and portable sediment coring. The intellectual merit of the proposed work is that it will test these two hypotheses and make novel use of the subsurface record that may result in new insights into WAIS sensitivity during the deglaciation. The study will also directly test the conclusion that Glacial Lake Washburn was much larger than previously proposed during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). This occurrence, if real, represents a stunning climate anomaly. Answers to these local ice sheet and lake questions directly pertain to larger scale issues concerning the influences of sea-level rise, climate change, and internal ice-sheet dynamics on the recession of the WAIS since the LGM. There are numerous broader impacts to this project. Understanding the glacial and lake history in the McMurdo Sound region has important implications for the role that the WAIS will play in future sea-level and global climate change. Moreover, the history of Taylor Valley has significance for the ecosystem studies currently being conducted by the LTER group. Lastly, during the course of the proposed research, the project will train two graduate and undergraduate students and the research will be featured prominently in the teaching of students.
Person Role
Prentice, Michael Investigator
Sletten, Ronald S. Investigator
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 0737168
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 0541054
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
Not provided
  1. Liu, L., Sletten, R. S., Hagedorn, B., Hallet, B., McKay, C. P., & Stone, J. O. (2015). An enhanced model of the contemporary and long-term (200 ka) sublimation of the massive subsurface ice in Beacon Valley, Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 120(8), 1596–1610. (doi:10.1002/2014jf003415)
  2. Toner, J. D., Sletten, R. S., & Prentice, M. L. (2013). Soluble salt accumulations in Taylor Valley, Antarctica: Implications for paleolakes and Ross Sea Ice Sheet dynamics. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 118(1), 198–215. (doi:10.1029/2012jf002467)
  3. Liu, L., Sletten, R. S., Hallet, B., & Waddington, E. D. (2018). Thermal Regime and Properties of Soils and Ice‐Rich Permafrost in Beacon Valley, Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 123(8), 1797–1810. (doi:10.1029/2017jf004535)
Platforms and Instruments

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