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Antarctica's subglacial sedimentary basins and their influence on ice-sheet change
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  • Alan R.A. Aitken,
  • Lu Li,
  • Bernd Kulessa,
  • Dustin M Schroeder,
  • Tom A. Jordan,
  • Joanne M Whittaker,
  • Sridhar Anandakrishnan,
  • Douglas A Wiens,
  • Olaf Eisen,
  • Martin J. Siegert
Alan R.A. Aitken
University of Western Australia

Corresponding Author:alan.aitken@uwa.edu.au

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Lu Li
University of Western Australia
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Bernd Kulessa
Swansea University
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Dustin M Schroeder
Stanford University
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Tom A. Jordan
British Antarctic Survey
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Joanne M Whittaker
University of Tasmania
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Sridhar Anandakrishnan
Pennsylvania State University
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Douglas A Wiens
Washington University
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Olaf Eisen
Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research
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Martin J. Siegert
Imperial College London
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Knowledge of Antarctica's sedimentary basins develops our understanding of the coupled evolution of tectonics, ice, ocean and climate. In particular, sedimentary basins exert controls on glacial and landscape processes that may impact the nature and scale of future ice-sheet change. Despite this importance, our knowledge of Antarctic sedimentary basins is highly restricted. Remoteness, the harsh surface environment, the overlying ice-sheet, fringing ice-shelves and sea-ice all make fieldwork challenging. Nonetheless, in the past decade the geophysics community has made great progress in internationally-coordinated data collection and compilation. Parallel advances in data analysis also allow a new level of insight into Antarctica's sedimentary basins. Here, we summarize recent progress in understanding Antarctica's subglacial sedimentary basins. We review relevant technical advances in radar, potential fields, active and passive seismic and electromagnetic techniques. In addition, we review advances in integrated multi-data interpretation including emerging machine learning approaches. These new capabilities permit a new continent-wide mapping of Antarctica's sedimentary basins and their characteristics, aiding definition of the tectonic development of the continent and its paleo-landscapes. Crucially, Antarctica's sedimentary basins interact with the overlying ice-sheet through key dynamic feedbacks that have the potential to contribute to rapid ice-sheet change. Looking ahead, future research directions include upscaling remote data collection with a minimal footprint, and resolving major knowledge gaps, including insufficient sampling of the ice-sheet bed and poor definition of subglacial basin structure and stratigraphy. Translating the knowledge of sedimentary basin processes into ice-sheet modelling studies is critical to underpin better predictive capacity to predict future change.