Exploring controls of the early and stepped deglaciation on the western margin of the British Irish Ice Sheet

Sara Benetti, Richard C. Chiverrell, Colm Ó. Cofaigh, Matt Burke, Alicia Medialdea, David Small, Colin Ballantyne, Mark D. Bateman, S. Louise Callard, Peter Wilson, Derek Fabel, Chris D. Clark, Riccardo Arosio, Sarah Bradley, Paul Dunlop, Jeremy C. Ely, Jenny Gales, Stephen J. Livingstone, Steven G. Moreton, Catriona PurcellMargot Saher, Kevin Schiele, Katrien Van Landeghem, Kasper Weilbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


New optically stimulated luminescence dating and Bayesian models integrating all legacy and BRITICE-CHRONO geochronology facilitated exploration of the controls on the deglaciation of two former sectors of the British–Irish Ice Sheet, the Donegal Bay (DBIS) and Malin Sea ice-streams (MSIS). Shelf-edge glaciation occurred ~27 ka, before the global Last Glacial Maximum, and shelf-wide retreat began 26–26.5 ka at a rate of ~18.7–20.7 m a–1. MSIS grounding zone wedges and DBIS recessional moraines show episodic retreat punctuated by prolonged still-stands. By ~23–22 ka the outer shelf (~25 000 km2) was free of grounded ice. After this time, MSIS retreat was faster (~20 m a–1 vs. ~2–6 m a–1 of DBIS). Separation of Irish and Scottish ice sources occurred ~20–19.5 ka, leaving an autonomous Donegal ice dome. Inner Malin shelf deglaciation followed the submarine troughs reaching the Hebridean coast ~19 ka. DBIS retreat formed the extensive complex of moraines in outer Donegal Bay at 20.5–19 ka. DBIS retreated on land by ~17–16 ka. Isolated ice caps in Scotland and Ireland persisted until ~14.5 ka. Early retreat of this marine-terminating margin is best explained by local ice loading increasing water depths and promoting calving ice losses rather than by changes in global temperatures. Topographical controls governed the differences between the ice-stream retreat from mid-shelf to the coast.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
VolumeEarly View
Early online date2 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2021


  • Deglaciation
  • Donegal
  • Ice streams
  • Malin Sea
  • Retreat rate


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