Brief Communication: New radar constraints support presence of ice older than 1.5 Myr at Little Dome C


The area near Dome C, East Antarctica, is thought to be one of the most promising targets for recovering a continuous ice-core record spanning more than a million years. The European Beyond EPICA consortium has selected Little Dome C (LDC), an area ∼ 35 km southeast of Concordia Station, to attempt to recover such a record. Here, we present the results of the final ice-penetrating radar survey used to refine the exact drill site. These data were acquired during the 2019–2020 austral summer using a new, multi-channel highresolution very high frequency (VHF) radar operating in the frequency range of 170–230 MHz. This new instrument is able to detect reflectors in the near-basal region, where previous surveys were largely unable to detect horizons. The radar stratigraphy is used to transfer the timescale of the EPICA Dome C ice core (EDC) to the area of Little Dome C, using radar isochrones dating back past 600 ka. We use these data to derive the expected depth–age relationship through the ice column at the now-chosen drill site, termed BELDC (Beyond EPICA LDC). These new data indicate that the ice at BELDC is considerably older than that at EDC at the same depth and that there is about 375 m of ice older than 600 kyr at BELDC. Stratigraphy is well preserved to 2565 m, ∼ 93 % of the ice thickness, below which there is a basal unit with unknown properties. An ice-flow model tuned to the isochrones suggests ages likely reach 1.5 Myr near 2500 m, ∼ 65 m above the basal unit and ∼ 265 m above the bed, with sufficient resolution (19 ± 2 kyr m−1) to resolve 41 kyr glacial cycles.

The Cryosphere
David A. Lilien
David A. Lilien
Assistant Professor (starting 2024)