Modeling Antarctic ice sheet and climate variations during Marine Isotope Stage 31

Robert M. DeConto, David Pollard, Douglas Kowalewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Marine Isotope Stage 31 (MIS-31) is one of the major interglacials of the early Pleistocene ~1.08 to 1.06Ma. Data from proximal sediment cores around several sectors of Antarctica indicate strong sea surface warming and ice shelf and sea ice retreat. Benthic deep-sea-core δ18O values at this time are some of the lowest of the Pleistocene, indicating both deep sea warming and reduced global ice volume. A coeval alignment of orbital parameters produces one of the strongest high-latitude summer insolation anomalies of the last several million years. Here we use a 3-D ice sheet-shelf model to simulate the evolution of Antarctic ice sheets through the event, and a global climate model to simulate temperatures and sea ice during peak Antarctic warmth. The ice model predicts nearly complete collapse and subsequent recovery of marine ice in West Antarctica, and the ice and climate model results agree well with proximal sediment core data in the Ross Embayment recovered by the ANDRILL and Cape Roberts drilling projects. The dominant forcing is found to be variations in sub-ice-shelf oceanic melting, with insignificant surface melting of terrestrial ice flanks even during peak warmth. Implications are noted in light of other observations and theories of Pliocene-Pleistocene Antarctic ice sheet variability that do involve surface melt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
StatePublished - May 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Oceanography


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