Alluvial Fans in the McMurdo Dry Valleys: A Proxy for Melting Along Terrestrial Margins of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet
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Surface melting along Antarctic ice sheet margins is the most poorly understood input in models of future sea level rise. Alluvial fans in the McMurdo Dry Valleys originate from meltwater produced from high-elevation glaciers and snowbanks along these margins but many show no evidence for recent melting. These fans could serve as a record of past melting along terrestrial ice sheet margins, which would help quantify inputs to sea-level rise.To describe how melting has taken place in the past, five representative fans were examined. Fans are composed of thin, planar-bedded gravelly sands deposited by sheetflooding. Geospatial analsysis suggests the distance of the meltwater source from the Ross Sea is the predominant control on fan activity, and that aggradation results when regional climatic gradients shift inland. Geomorphic observations suggest centuries to millennia pass between periods of aggradation. OSL dating indicates that fans are no older than Holocene in age.