The life and death of a subglacial lake in West Antarctica

M.R. Siegfried, R.A. Venturelli, M.O. Patterson, W. Arnuk, T.D. Campbell, C.D. Gustafson, A.B. Michaud, B.K. Galton-Fenzi, M.B. Hausner, S.N. Holzschuh, B. Huber, K.D. Mankoff, D.M. Schroeder, P.T. Summers, S. Tyler, S.P. Carter, H.A. Fricker, D.M. Harwood, A. Leventer, B.E. RosenheimM.L. Skidmore, J.C. Priscu, the SALSA Science Team

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past 50 years, the discovery and initial investigation of subglacial lakes in Antarctica have highlighted the paleoglaciological information that may be recorded in sediments at their beds. In December 2018, we accessed Mercer Subglacial Lake, West Antarctica, and recovered the first in situ subglacial lake-sediment record—120 mm of finely laminated mud. We combined geophysical observations, image analysis, and quantitative stratigraphy techniques to estimate long-term mean lake sedimentation rates (SRs) between 0.49 ± 0.12 mm a–1 and 2.3 ± 0.2 mm a–1, with a most likely SR of 0.68 ± 0.08 mm a–1. These estimates suggest that this lake formed between 53 and 260 a before core recovery (BCR), with a most likely age of 180 ± 20 a BCR—coincident with the stagnation of the nearby Kamb Ice Stream. Our work demonstrates that interconnected subglacial lake systems are fundamentally linked to larger-scale ice dynamics and highlights that subglacial sediment archives contain powerful, century-scale records of ice history and provide a modern processbased analogue for interpreting paleo–subglacial lake facies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-438
Number of pages5
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2023

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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