Helena Stewart

PhD Research Student

Environmental Chemistry BSc (Hons), University of Glasgow 2008

Supervisors: Robert McCulloch, Tom Bradwell

Start Date: 1st October 2012

3A124A, Cottrell Building
Biological & Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling

tel: +44 (0)1786 467
fax:+(44) 1786 467843
email: Helena Stewart

Research Project

Peat’s secret archive: reconstructing the North Atlantic storm frequency and volcanic eruption history of the last 10,000 years

The world’s largest sources of dust are found in low latitude arid regions and this is where most aeolian research has been focused. However the processes of dust production and emissions may still be found in higher latitude and colder climatic regions such as Iceland.  Dust emission and deposition rates in active glacial catchments are very high, and in some cases exceed the rates measured in lower latitudes.  The main sources of North Atlantic dust are the expansive unvegetated Sandur plains of southern Iceland and areas close to the glaciers.  Glaciers cover approximately 10% of the country and create high levels of physical weathering.  Therefore, the sediment load of glacial rivers is high and large quantities of sediments are deposited on floodplains and at the glacial margins creating large sources of windblown dust.  During high-magnitude storms this dust is remobilised in the lower atmosphere and carried further afield by strong winds and is often deposited over Scotland and the British Isles enabling a chronology of this process to be developed from peat cores.  Iceland is also a highly volcanic area therefore tephra can be identified alongside the glacial dust in the peat cores and can be used as a chronological tool.  This project focuses on producing a high-resolution, age-constrained index of Icelandic dust storm and volcanic eruption frequency spanning the past 10,000 years, through detailed analysis of terrestrial peat cores from northern Scotland and assessing the long term frequency of these events.

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