The occurrence of diatoms (both marine and freshwater) in sediments beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is suggestive of past ice-sheet collapse. However, it is not the only model explaining such occurrences. We propose another mechanism for introducing diatoms beneath ice sheets by considering the fate of a diatom placed (by eolian processes) on top of an ice sheet. Mathematical modeling indicates that the route the diatom will take through the ice sheet is dictated by the basal melting rate. If no basal melting takes place, flowlines will crop out at the ice-sheet margin. However, if basal melting is as low as 0.01 m/yr the trajectories of all flowlines except for those nearest the margin will intersect the bed, with those diatoms deposited near the dome reaching the bed about halfway down the flowband. Larger values of basal melting lead to the diatoms reaching the bed even faster and closer to the point of origin. Tn light of these results, the presence of diatoms in sediments beneath the WAIS does not lead to a unique solution; it is not necessary to invoke past ice-sheet collapse to account for their presence.
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