60 million years of glaciation in the Transantarctic Mountains

Iestyn D. Barr* (Corresponding Author), Matteo Spagnolo, Brice R. Rea, Robert G. Bingham, Rachel P. Oien, Kathryn Adamson, Jeremy C. Ely, Donal J. Mullan, Ramón Pellitero, Matt D. Tomkins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Antarctic continent reached its current polar location ~83 Ma and became shrouded by ice sheets ~34 Ma, coincident with dramatic global cooling at the Eocene-Oligocene boundary. However, it is not known whether the first Antarctic glaciers formed immediately prior to this or were present significantly earlier. Here we show that mountain glaciers were likely present in the Transantarctic Mountains during the Late Palaeocene (~60–56 Ma) and middle Eocene (~48–40 Ma). Temperate (warm-based) glaciers were prevalent during the Late Eocene (~40–34 Ma) and, in reduced numbers, during the Oligocene (~34–23 Ma), before larger, likely cold-based, ice masses (including ice sheets) dominated. Some temperate mountain glaciers were present during the Miocene Climatic Optimum (~15 Ma), before a widespread switch to cold-based glaciation. Our findings highlight the longevity of glaciation in Antarctica and suggest that glaciers were present even during the Early-Cenozoic greenhouse world.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5526
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Early online date21 Sep 2022
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2022


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