Paleo ice flow and subglacial meltwater dynamics in Pine Island Bay, West Antarctica
Abstract. Increasing evidence for an elaborate subglacial drainage network underneath modern Antarctic ice sheets suggests that basal meltwater has an important influence on ice stream flow. Swath bathymetry surveys from previously glaciated continental margins display morphological features indicative of subglacial meltwater flow in inner shelf areas of some paleo ice stream troughs. Over the last few years several expeditions to the eastern Amundsen Sea embayment (West Antarctica) have investigated the paleo ice streams that extended from the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers. A compilation of high-resolution swath bathymetry data from inner Pine Island Bay reveals details of a rough seabed topography including several deep channels that connect a series of basins. This complex basin and channel network is indicative of meltwater flow beneath the paleo-Pine Island and Thwaites ice streams, along with substantial subglacial water inflow from the east. This meltwater could have enhanced ice flow over the rough bedrock topography. Meltwater features diminish with the onset of linear features north of the basins. Similar features have previously been observed in several other areas, including the Dotson-Getz Trough (western Amundsen Sea embayment) and Marguerite Bay (SW Antarctic Peninsula), suggesting that these features may be widespread around the Antarctic margin and that subglacial meltwater drainage played a major role in past ice-sheet dynamics.