The Cenozoic history of Antarctica and its global impact
The Antarctic continent and the peripheral ocean regions are the primary source of information on the Cenozoic cryosphere and events leading up to its development at least 36 million years ago. From a variety of data it is now apparent that the southern high latitudes have been subjected to a dynamic alternation of ice sheet expansion and decay through the late Palaeogene and Neogene. This history of climate change was accompanied by, and certainly strongly influenced by, significant vertical and horizontal lithosphere changes, including the evolution of major internal seaways and mountain ranges. The imprint of this record is preserved in the marine successions of the polar basins, in the world's bathyal and abyssal ocean basins and in the continental shelves of other continents, including those of the Northern Hemisphere. The Antarctic and extra-Antarctic terrestrial and marine data bases have developed separately in the past three decades and geospheric and biospheric information must now be integrated across latitudes. Future success in deciphering climate change depends on a better understanding of glacial–deglacial cycles from the point of view of both direct Antarctic and indirect or proxy extra-Antarctic data, through the complete temporal range of 107 to 103 years. Unfortunately, much of the high latitude record for the past 65 million years of earth history is presently veiled by thick ice sheets/ice shelves and deep and often ice-covered marine waters. Without the intensive application of the most advanced remote sampling equipment on the continent and in the Southern Ocean it will be difficult for this region to contribute significantly to global change and global climate programmes.(Accepted December 18 1989)
Key Words: tectonic evolution; palaeogeography; sedimentary basins; glacial history; sea level; palaeoclimate; remote sampling technology.