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Geophysical Research Letters

Initiation of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and estimates of total Antarctic ice volume in the earliest Oligocene

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Abstract

[1] Reconstructions of Antarctic paleotopography for the late Eocene suggest that glacial erosion and thermal subsidence have lowered West Antarctic elevations considerably since then, with Antarctic land area having decreased ~20%. A new climate-ice sheet model based on these reconstructions shows that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet first formed at the Eocene-Oligocene transition (33.8–33.5 Ma, E-O) in concert with the continental-scale expansion of the East Antarctica Ice Sheet and that the total volume of East and West Antarctic ice (33.4–35.9 × 106 km3) was >1.4 times greater than previously assumed. This larger modeled ice volume is consistent with a modest cooling of 1–2°C in the deep ocean during the E-O transition, lower than other estimates of ~3°C cooling, and suggests the possibility of substantial ice in the Antarctic interior before the Eocene-Oligocene boundary.

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