Early Last Interglacial ocean warming drove substantial ice mass loss from Antarctica

Chris S.M. Turney, Christopher J. Fogwill, Nicholas R. Golledge, Nicholas P. McKay, Erik van Sebille, Richard T. Jones, David Etheridge, Mauro Rubino, David P. Thornton, Siwan M. Davies, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Zoë Thomas, Michael I. Bird, Niels C. Munksgaard, Mika Kohno, John Woodward, Kate Winter, Laura S. Weyrich, Camilla M. Rootes, Helen Millman, Paul G. Albert, Andres Rivera, Tas van Ommen, Mark Curran, Andrew Moy, Stefan Rahmstorf, Kenji Kawamura, Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand, Michael E. Weber, Christina J. Manning, Jennifer Young, and Alan Cooper

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Received Date: 11th November 18

The future response of the Antarctic ice sheets to rising temperatures remains highly uncertain. A valuable analogue for assessing the sensitivity of Antarctica to warming is the Last Interglacial (129-116 kyr), when global sea level peaked 6 to 9 meters above present. Here we report a blue-ice record of ice-sheet and environmental change from the periphery of the marine-based West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). Constrained by a widespread volcanic horizon and supported by ancient microbial DNA analyses, we provide the first direct evidence for Last Interglacial WAIS collapse, driven by ocean warming and associated with destabilization of sub-glacial hydrates. Ice-sheet modelling supports this interpretation and suggests a 2˚C warming of the Southern Ocean over a millennia could trigger a ~3.2 meter rise in global sea levels. Our data indicate Antarctica is highly vulnerable to projected increases in ocean temperatures and may drive ice-climate feedbacks that further amplify warming.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

Nature Communications

Nature Research, Springer Nature