Cenozoic East Antarctic Ice Sheet and paleoceanographic change from Wilkes Land sediments: Obtaining Antarctic Climate Evolution trough a national and international integrated effort in the context of the International Polar Year (IPY)
The project aims at improving the long-term record of Antarctic glaciation, and its relationship with global sea-level, paleoclimate and paleoceanographic changes. This includes the critical periods in Earth climatic evolution
when the Antarctic cryosphere formed and evolved to assume its present day configuration, characterized by a relatively stable East Antarctic ice sheet. To attain this objective we plan to constrain the age, nature and paleoenvironment of deposition of the now inferred glacial sequences in the Wilkes Land continental rise and abyssal plain at target stratigraphic intervals that have the potential of preserving an Antarctic ice sheet and paleceanographic record of episodes and events of regional and global significance. It is particularly important to assess the stability of the cryosphere in the face of rising CO2 levels, as modelling of the climate shift from a warm, vegetated Antarctica to a cold, ice-covered state 34 Myrs ago suggests a powerful greenhouse gas influence (De Conto and Pollard, 2003). Also, the new chronostrotratigraphy and the expected substantial improvement in the knowledge-base on past Antarctic environments and climate in the Wilkes Land margin, is essential to provide age constrains for models of development of the Antarctic Ice Sheet , which may be the basis for predictions on future climate change.