Project Information
COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: Orbital-scale Variability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the Formation of Bottom Water in the Ross Sea during the Pliocene-Pleistocene
Short Title:
Orbital-scale Variability of WAIS and AABW in the Pliocene-Pleistocene Ross Sea
Start Date:
End Date:
Geological records from the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) margin demonstrate that the ice sheet oscillated in response to orbital variations in insolation (i.e., ~400, 100, 41, and 20 kyr), and it appears to be more sensitive to specific frequencies that regulate mean annual insolation (i.e., 41-kyr obliquity), particularly when the ice sheet extends into marine environments and is impacted by ocean circulation. However, the relationship between orbital forcing and the production of Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) is unconstrained. Thus, a knowledge gap exists in understanding how changing insolation impacts ice marginal and Southern Ocean conditions that directly influence ventilation of the global ocean. We hypothesize that insolation-driven changes directly affected the production and export of AABW to the Southern Ocean from the Pliocene through the Pleistocene. For example, obliquity amplification during the warmer Pliocene may have led to enhanced production and export of dense waters from the shelf due to reduced AIS extent, which, in turn, led to greater AABW outflow. To determine the relationship of AABW production to orbital regime, we plan to reconstruct both from a single, continuous record from the levee of Hillary Canyon, a major conduit of AABW outflow, on the Ross Sea continental rise. To test our hypothesis, we will analyze sediment from IODP Site U1524 (recovered in 2018 during International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 374) and focus on three data sets. (1) We will use the occurrence, frequency, and character of mm-scale turbidite beds as a proxy of dense-shelf-water cascading outflow and AABW production. We will estimate the down-slope flux via numerical modeling of turbidity current properties using morphology, grain size, and bed thickness as input parameters. (2) We will use grain-size data, physical properties, XRF core scanning, CT imaging, and hyperspectral imaging to guide lithofacies analysis to infer processes occurring during glacial, deglacial, and interglacial periods. Statistical techniques and optimization methods will be applied to test for astronomical forcing of sedimentary packages in order to provide a cyclostratigraphic framework and interpret the orbital-forcing regime. (3) We will use bulk sedimentary carbon and nitrogen abundance and isotope data to determine how relative contributions of terrigenous and marine organic matter change in response to orbital forcing. We will integrate these data with sedimentological records to deconvolve organic matter production from its deposition or remobilization due to AABW outflow as a function of the oscillating extent of the AIS. These data sets will be integrated into a unified chronostratigraphy to determine the relationship between AABW outflow and orbital-forcing scenarios under the varying climate regimes of the Plio-Pleistocene.
Person Role
Romans, Brian Investigator and contact
Patterson, Molly Co-Investigator
Ash, Jeanine Co-Investigator
Kulhanek, Denise Co-Investigator
Ash, Jeannie Investigator
Antarctic Earth Sciences Award # 2000992
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
Product Level:
0 (raw data)
Platforms and Instruments

This project has been viewed 5 times since May 2019 (based on unique date-IP combinations)