Periglacial trimlines, former nunataks and the dimensions of the last ice sheet in Wester Ross, North-West Scotland

Colin Kerr Ballantyne, D McCarroll, A Nesje, S-O Dahl

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    47 Citations (Scopus)


    High-level weathering limits separating ice-scoured topography from frost-weathered detritus were identified on 28 mountains in Wester Ross at altitudes of 700-960 m, and a further 22 peaks support evidence of ice scouring to summit level. Weathering limits are defined most clearly on sandstone and gneiss, which have resisted frost shattering during the Late Devensian Lateglacial, but can also be distinguished on schists and quartzite. Schmidt hammer measurements and analyses of clay mineral assemblages indicate significantly more advanced rock and soil weathering above the weathering limits. The persistence of gibbsite above weathering limits indicates that they represent the upper limit of Late Devensian glacial erosion. The regular decline of weathering-limit altitudes along former flowlines eliminates the possibility that the weathering limits represent former thermal boundaries between protective cold-based and erosive warm-based ice. The weathering limits are therefore interpreted as periglacial trimlines that define the maximum surface altitude of the last ice sheet. Calculated basal shear stresses of 50-95 kPa are consistent with this interpretation. Reconstruction of ice-sheet configuration indicates that the former ice-shed lay above 900 m along the present watershed, and that the ice surface descended northwestwards, with broad depressions along major troughs and localised domes around independent centres of ice dispersal. Extrapolation of the ice surface gradient and altitude suggests that the ice sheet did not overrun the Outer Hebrides, but was confluent with the independent Outer Hebrides ice-cap in the North Minch basin. Erratics located up to 140 m above the reconstructed ice surface are inferred to have been emplaced by a pre-Late Devensian ice sheet (or ice sheets) of unknown age. (C) 1997 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)225-238
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
    Publication statusPublished - May 1997


    • periglacial trimline
    • nunataks
    • weathering limits
    • gibbsite
    • Late Devensian
    • SOILS
    • LEWIS
    • ISLE


    Dive into the research topics of 'Periglacial trimlines, former nunataks and the dimensions of the last ice sheet in Wester Ross, North-West Scotland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this