Pattern, style and timing of British-Irish Ice Sheet retreat: Shetland and northern North Sea sector


Bradwell T, Small D, Fabel D, Clark CD, Chiverrell RC, Saher MH, Dove D, Callard SL, Burke MJ, Moreton SG, Medialdea A, Bateman MD, Roberts DH, Golledge NR & Finlayson A (2021) Pattern, style and timing of British-Irish Ice Sheet retreat: Shetland and northern North Sea sector. Journal of Quaternary Science, 36 (5), pp. 681-722.

The offshore sector around Shetland remains one of the least well‐studied parts of the former British–Irish Ice Sheet with several long‐standing scientific issues unresolved. These key issues include (i) the dominance of a locally sourced ‘Shetland ice cap’ vs an invasive Fennoscandian Ice Sheet; (ii) the flow configuration and style of glaciation at the Last Glacial Maximum (i.e. terrestrial vs marine glaciation); (iii) the nature of confluence between the British–Irish and Fennoscandian Ice Sheets; (iv) the cause, style and rate of ice sheet separation; and (v) the wider implications of ice sheet uncoupling on the tempo of subsequent deglaciation. As part of the Britice‐Chrono project, we present new geological (seabed cores), geomorphological, marine geophysical and geochronological data from the northernmost sector of the last British–Irish Ice Sheet (north of 59.5°N) to address these questions. The study area covers ca. 95 000 km2, an area approximately the size of Ireland, and includes the islands of Shetland and the surrounding continental shelf, some of the continental slope, and the western margin of the Norwegian Channel. We collect and analyse data from onshore in Shetland and along key transects offshore, to establish the most coherent picture, so far, of former ice‐sheet deglaciation in this important sector. Alongside new seabed mapping and Quaternary sediment analysis, we use a multi‐proxy suite of new isotopic age assessments, including 32 cosmogenic‐nuclide exposure ages from glacially transported boulders and 35 radiocarbon dates from deglacial marine sediments, to develop a synoptic sector‐wide reconstruction combining strong onshore and offshore geological evidence with Bayesian chronosequence modelling. The results show widespread and significant spatial fluctuations in size, shape and flow configuration of an ice sheet/ice cap centred on, or to the east of, the Orkney–Shetland Platform, between ~30 and ~15 ka BP. At its maximum extent ca. 26–25 ka BP, this ice sheet was coalescent with the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet to the east. Between ~25 and 23 ka BP the ice sheet in this sector underwent a significant size reduction from ca. 85 000 to

continental shelf; deglaciation; geochronology; ice sheet; Pleistocene

Additional co-authors: Sally Morgan, Colm Ó Cofaigh

Journal of Quaternary Science: Volume 36, Issue 5

FundersNatural Environment Research Council
Publication date31/07/2021
Publication date online21/11/2019
Date accepted by journal07/10/2019