EGU22-3584, updated on 19 May 2022
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Climate of the last 125 kyr at Skytrain Ice Rise, Antarctica

Eric Wolff1, Helene Hoffmann1, and the WACSWAIN science team plus collaborating scientists*
Eric Wolff and Helene Hoffmann and the WACSWAIN science team plus collaborating scientists
  • 1University of Cambridge, Earth Sciences, Cambridge, United Kingdom (
  • *A full list of authors appears at the end of the abstract

There is intense interest in the future stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).  Models range widely in their predictions and in the physics they include.  Because the timescales for ice sheets are long, our best hope of constraining the solutions is to look at the past behaviour of WAIS. The last interglacial (LIG) is a particularly important time because Antarctic temperature was higher than present and some models predict the complete loss of WAIS and of the large ice shelves adjacent to it.

Within the WACSWAIN (WArm Climate Stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet in the last INterglacial) project, in 2019 we retrieved a 651 metre ice core to the bed of Skytrain Ice Rise. This ice rise is adjacent to the Ronne Ice shelf and the WAIS, but is expected to have maintained an independent ice flow because of the protection afforded by the Ellsworth Mountains.  The ice core has been processed and analysed continuously for a range of analytes, including water isotopes, methane and major chemistry.

In this presentation we will first describe the dating of the ice core achieved in the top half of the ice column by annual layer counting supplemented by fixed horizons, and deeper down by ice flow modelling supplemented by tie points from chemistry, 10Be, as well as atmospheric CH4 and δ18O. The core is continuous through the last glacial period, and most of the last interglacial. Discontinuities occur near the base, in the ice at the older end of the LIG, so that although older ice may be  present, we can only interpret the core to 125 ka.

Overall, the ice core record shows the clearly recognisable pattern of all the Antarctic Isotopic Maxima seen in East Antarctic ice cores over the last glacial cycles. In the early part of the Holocene, we see a very interesting pattern representing thinning of the ice rise and retreat of the Ronne Ice shelf.  This allows us to add reliable dates to the history of ice retreat in the early Holocene.

In the LIG, the record of marine ions in the ice suggest that the Ronne Ice Shelf was present at least from 125 ka onwards. This rules out occurrence of some of the more extreme retreats of WAIS that would have led to seaways between the Weddell, Amundsen and Ross Seas.  We see somewhat higher water isotope ratios in the LIG than the Holocene, possibly consistent with some drawdown of WAIS in sectors other than the Weddell region.

WACSWAIN science team plus collaborating scientists:

Eric Wolff1, Mackenzie Grieman1,9, Jack Humby2, Robert Mulvaney2, Christoph Nehrbass-Ahles1, Isobel Rowell1, Emily Doyle1, Sentia Goursaud1, Amy King2, Helena Pryer1, Rachael Rhodes1, Elizabeth Thomas2, Marcus Christl3, Hubertus Fischer4, Amaelle Landais5, Raimund Muscheler6, Frédéric Parrenin7, Frédéric Prié5, Loic Schmidely4, Axel Schmidt8, Thomas Stocker4. List of affiliations: 1. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK 2. British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK 3. Laboratory for Ion Beam Physics, ETH Zurich, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland 4. Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change, University of Bern, Switzerland 5. Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, LSCE/IPSL, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Université Paris-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France 6. Department of Geology, Quaternary Sciences, Lund University, Sölvegatan 12, SE-22362 Lund, Sweden 7. CNRS/Univ. Grenoble-Alpes, Institut des Géosciences de l'Environnement (IGE), Grenoble, France 8. Bundesanstalt für Gewässerkunde, Koblenz, Germany 9. Reed College, Portland, Oregon, USA

How to cite: Wolff, E. and Hoffmann, H. and the WACSWAIN science team plus collaborating scientists: Climate of the last 125 kyr at Skytrain Ice Rise, Antarctica, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-3584,, 2022.