Using GIS to find Evidence for the Collapse of the Mesozoic West Antarctic Plateau


Stephanie Kay

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New geographic information science (GIS) analysis of 200m and 20m DEMs of the Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica lends evidence to support the collapse of the Mesozoic West Antarctic Plateau, hypothesized by Huerta and Blythe. Three separate tests were conducted to find evidence to support plateau collapse. 1) Analysis of angles measured between small glacier tributaries and larger glacial drainages suggests that ice once flowed into East Antarctica, opposite to the flow direction today. This suggests that there has been an overall decrease in elevation of West Antarctica resulting in drainage reversal. 2) The spatial pattern of lineaments, which were manually identified on the DEMs, shows evidence of faulting along the front of the Transantarctic Mountains which can be used as an indicator of plateau collapse. 3) Slope analysis, performed using the Spatial Analyst extension in ArcGIS indicates the front of the Transantarctic Mountains has a higher mean slope than compared to the back of the Transantarctic Mountains. This suggests tectonic activity along the mountain front which is also an indicator of plateau collapse. The results of the three tests lend evidence to support the West Antarctic plateau collapse model.


Ann Blythe




National Science Foundation - Research at Undergraduate Institutions Grant to Prof. Blythe

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