Paleoglaciological study of the Ahlmannryggen, Borgmassivet and Kirwanveggen nunatak ranges, Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica, using WorldView imagery

Paleoglaciological reconstructions based on glacial geological and geomorphological evidence areused to constrain and test numerical models of ice sheet extent and dynamics. The MAGIC-DMLresearch project (“Mapping, Measuring and Modelling Antarctic Geomorphology and Ice Change, inDronning Maud Land”...

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Bibliographic Details
Main Author: Serra, Elena
Format: Bachelor Thesis
Language:English
Published: Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för naturgeografi 2017
Subjects:
DML
Online Access:http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:su:diva-180793
Description
Summary:Paleoglaciological reconstructions based on glacial geological and geomorphological evidence areused to constrain and test numerical models of ice sheet extent and dynamics. The MAGIC-DMLresearch project (“Mapping, Measuring and Modelling Antarctic Geomorphology and Ice Change, inDronning Maud Land”) is trying to reconstruct the timing and pattern of ice surface elevation changessince the mid-Pliocene across western Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica. This reconstructionwill work as the basis for testing and constraining ice sheet numerical models to improve climateunderstanding in Antarctica. This master thesis project contributes to MAGIC-DML by adopting a high-resolution remote sensingbasedmapping of glacial geomorphology and ice sheet surface structures, for a coast-inland transectincluding the Ahlmannryggen, Borgmassivet, and Kirwanveggen nunatak ranges. The primary aimof this study is to investigate the glaciology and paleoglaciology of the study area, in order to mapevidence for a former thicker ice sheet on nunatak slopes and plateaus, and patterns of ice flow of thecurrent ice sheet surface. Meso-scale glacial landforms and ice flow features were identified andmapped using different remote sensing data sets: the LANDSAT Image Mosaic of Antarctica(LIMA), DigitalGlobe Worldview-2 (WV02) and Worldview-3 (WV03) panchromatic andmultispectral images, the Radarsat Antarctica Mapping Project (RAMP) Ice Surface Digital ElevationModel (DEM) version 2, and the Bedmap2 datasets. The satellite imagery was analysed in a multistepprocedure using ArcGIS, including image processing and mosaicking, visual feature recognition,and mapping. The identification of some key landforms required the adoption of assumptions, forexample in order to distinguish till cover from regolith or boulders derived from rock fall from glacialerratics. Present-day ice flow directions were traced according to the distribution of ice surfacefeatures such as blue ice areas, crevasse fields, longitudinal surface structures, and supraglacialmoraines. The occurrence of till cover and erratics above the present-day ice surface on somenunataks slopes and plateaus was considered indicative of a thicker ice sheet in the past. Paleo-iceflow directions were inferred from the proximity of locations to the closest ice streams, since thatlatter have been active since the Oligocene. Geomorphological and ice flow direction maps were obtained and used to infer the paleoglaciologyof the three nunatak ranges. Ice sheet thinning reconstructions reveal a minimum ice surface loweringof ~400–500 m in the Ahlmannryggen and Borgmassivet nunatak ranges, of ~300 m north of theKirwanveggen escarpment and of ~100 m on the edge of Amundsenisen polar plateau. The paleo-icesheet flow pattern probably differed from today, because ice flow has locally been influenced by anincreased topographical complexity, due to the thinning of the ice sheet and the emerging of nunatakoutcrops. According to dating studies conducted elsewhere in DML, the inferred ice surface decreasewas probably initiated in the Late Pliocene/Early Pleistocene, and continued after the Last GlacialMaximum interruption across the coastal sector of the ice sheet. The reliability of derived paleo-icesheet reconstructions, based on the mapping and interpretation of landforms, needs to be verified infuture field studies. This master thesis project has identified 34 well-suited locations for the samplingof erratic boulders and bedrock surfaces for cosmogenic nuclide (CN) surface exposure dating duringthe MAGIC-DML 2017/18 field season. The chronology derived from CN dating and fieldverification of the presented mapping will permit the delineation of ice sheet surface elevations astargets for ice sheet modelling.