Additional Participants

Undergraduate Student

Naomi Smethurst
Alice Doughty
Megan Essig
Nathan Mietkowicz

Organizational Partners

University of Washington

Project Period

June 1, 2004-May 31, 2007

Level of Access

Open-Access Report

Grant Number


Submission Date



This award supports a study of the timing of climate changes in the Southern Hemisphere with the goal of reconstructing former ice extent and fluctuations, as well as paleoclimate, along the key latitudinal transect from temperate Tierra del Fuego to the polar Antarctic Peninsula. Samples already in hand will allow the dating of ice fluctuations in the South Shetland Islands (SSI), a critical location where that transect crosses the Antarctic Convergence. Surprisingly little concrete evidence exists concerning former ice extent in the island chain. The results of this study will answer a number of basic questions regarding ice extent and the timing of subsequent deglaciation in the Antarctic Peninsula. A cosmogenic exposure-age chronology will be produced from samples collected at carefully selected moraines on King George and Livingston Islands. A preliminary age of 18,000 years for a large granodiorite boulder from the outer moraine at Marian Cove suggests that the moraine may represent the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) ice position. These data point to the potential for developing a ~20,000-yr record of ice fluctuations in the SSI, something that has not been achieved previously. Such data could be used not only to settle the long-standing debate over LGM ice extent in the SSI, but also would be valuable in assessing the global synchrony of large climate changes. Both a graduate and undergraduate student will be involved. This work builds on the recent success in dating glacial deposits in the Antarctic as young as 300 years using Beryllium-10 (10Be), as well as on an unexpected opportunity to map moraines and collect exposure-age samples in the SSI in 2002/2003. This research will produce a new understanding of the timing of ice fluctuations in the SSI, the extent and thickness of former ice cover, and may allow the development of a glacial chronology extending from the LGM to the late Holocene. This work will also provide a basis for inter-hemispheric comparisons of climate change and fits within the constraints of the Pole-Equator-Pole (PEP 1) transect to develop high-resolution, well-dated paleoclimate records in the Americas and Antarctic Peninsula.

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