Colin Ballantyne, FRSE


  • KY16 9AL

    United Kingdom

Personal profile

Research overview

cosmogenic isotope dating; debris flow; frost action; geomorphological mapping; geomorphology; glacial deposit; glacial history; glaciation; hydrology; nivation; palaeoclimatic reconstruction; paraglacial; periglacial; periglacial deposit; periglaciation; permafrost; radiocarbon dating; rock mechanics; rockfall; slope stability; soil mechanics; solifluction; talus; wind erosion; X-ray diffraction

Research interests

My current research interests are threefold, namely research into the characteristics, genesis and significance of periglacial landforms and deposits; research into the late Quaternary environmental history of Scotland and Norway; and development of the concept of paraglacial (glacially-conditioned) landscape change.

Within the field of periglacial geomorphology, I have been concerned with establishing the influence of lithology and past and present climate on the distribution of periglacial landforms and deposits, particularly on British upland areas, and with the measurement or reconstruction of present and past rates and forms of slope development under cold climate conditions. Using a combination of detailed field mapping and sedimentological analysis, I have managed to identify the major lithological and, to some extent, climatic controls on the rate, form and distribution of past and present periglacial activity, particularly rock weathering, solifluction, frost creep, frost sorting, debris flow, rockfall, wind action and nivation. I am author of a textbook of one textbook on periglacial geomorphology (The Periglaciation of Great Britain, 1994) and am currently preparing another text (Periglacial Geomorphology and Sedimentology) for publication in 2005/6.

My recent work on glacial history has been concentrated on establishing the dimensions of the last ice sheet in Great Britain and Ireland. I have also reconstructed the dimensions of glaciers that developed during the Younger Dryas period (12.9-11.5 cal ka BP) in Scotland, and developed methods of palaeoclimatic inference based on former glacier dimensions. I have also been involved in pioneering work on the use of cosmogenic isotope dating to establish the chronology of deglaciation in the British Isles.

My research on paraglacial geomorphology incorporates both empirical work on the rate and nature of hillslope modification following deglaciation (mainly in Scotland and Norway) and the general theory of sediment flux and landscape modification associated with the response of landscape to deglaciation.

See Environmental Change Research Group for more information.

Other expertise

Techniques of sedimentological analysis of clastic deposits, particularly fabric, clast roundness and aggregate clast form. Statistical analysis and numerical modelling of earth systems.

Future research

Reconstruction of the surface configuration of the last British and Irish ice sheets. Palaeoclimatic reconstruction of YoungerDryas climate in Scotland based on multiproxy evidence. Deglaciation chronology of the Irish Sea glacier. Deglaciation chronology of the Outer Hebrides. Use of cosmoghenic isotope dating to calibrate an exhaustion model of postglacial rock-slope failure in Scotland.

Industrial relevance

Civil engineering, particularly evaluation and mapping of sand and gravel deposits, highway construction and hazard identification. I have had extensive experience in geomorphological remote sensing and field mapping. I have had previous experience as a consultant working on a review of landsliding and slope stability for the Departmentof the Environment, and on debris flow activity for Scottish Natural Heritage.

Academic/Professional Qualification

D.Sc., University of St Andrews; Ph.D., University of Edinburgh; M.Sc., McMaster University, Canada; M.A., University of Glasgow; International Permafrost Association; British Geomorphological Research Group; Royal Scottish Geographical Society; Quaternary Research Association; Edinburgh Geological Society

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


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