Holocene melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet driven by tropical Pacific warming
Ice loss from the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica is rapidly accelerating. Here, the authors reveal that this region also underwent thinning and retreat from 9 to 6 thousand years ago, due to atmospheric connections with a warming tropical Pacific. The primary Antarctic contribution to modern sea-level rise is glacial discharge from the Amundsen Sea sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The main processes responsible for ice mass loss include: (1) ocean-driven melting of ice shelves by upwelling of warm water onto the continental shelf; and (2) atmospheric-driven surface melting of glaciers along the Antarctic coast. Understanding the relative influence of these processes on glacial stability is imperative to predicting sea-level rise. Employing a beryllium isotope-based reconstruction of ice-shelf history, we demonstrate that glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea Embayment underwent melting and retreat between 9 and 6 thousand years ago. Despite warm ocean water influence, this melting event was mainly forced by atmospheric circulation changes over continental West Antarctica, linked via a Rossby wave train to tropical Pacific Ocean warming. This millennial-scale glacial history may be used to validate contemporary ice-sheet models and improve sea-level projections.