Article

Asymmetric ice-sheet retreat pattern around Northern Scotland revealed by marine geophysical surveys

Citation

Bradwell T & Stoker M (2015) Asymmetric ice-sheet retreat pattern around Northern Scotland revealed by marine geophysical surveys. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 105 (4), pp. 297-322. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1755691015000109

Abstract
This study uses marine geophysical data, principally single-beam and high-resolution multibeam echo sounder bathymetry, combined with seismic sub-bottom profiles, and existing Quaternary geological information, to map the glacial geomorphology of a large area of seafloor (∼50,000 km2) on the continental shelf around northern Scotland, from west of Lewis to north of the Orkney Islands. Our new mapping reveals the detailed pattern of submarine glacial landforms, predominantly moraines, relating to ice sheets that covered Scotland and much of the continental shelf during the Late Weichselian glaciation and earlier in the Mid to Late Pleistocene. The reconstructed retreat pattern based on geomorphological evidence highlights the large number of different retreat stages and the asymmetric, non-uniform evolution of this ice sheet sector during Late Weichselian deglaciation. Time-equivalent ice-front reconstructions show that marine sectors of the ice sheet, such as the Minch, changed their geometry significantly, perhaps rapidly; whilst other sectors remained relatively unchanged and stable. We suggest that this behaviour, governed principally by bed topography/bathymetry and ice dynamics, led to reorganisation of the Late Weichselian ice sheet as it retreated back to two main ice centres: one in Western Scotland and the other over Orkney and Shetland. This retreat pattern suggests relatively early deglaciation of NW Lewis (ca. 25 ka BP) and the mountains of far NW Scotland – the latter possibly forming a substantial ice-free land corridor. Our reconstructions differ from most previous syntheses, but are strongly supported by the independently-mapped offshore Quaternary succession and key onshore dating constraints.

Keywords
British–Irish Ice Sheet; deglaciation; continental shelf; Late Weichselian; multibeam bathymetry

Journal
Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Volume 105, Issue 4

StatusPublished
FundersNatural Environment Research Council
Publication date30/09/2015
Publication date online05/08/2015
Date accepted by journal04/05/2015
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/23877
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISSN1755-6910