Surging glaciers in Scotland

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Glacier surges are cyclic oscillations of velocity and mass resulting from internal dynamic instabilities. For surge-type glaciers, cycles of advance and retreat are decoupled from climate forcing, so it is important to consider the possibility that former glaciers may have been surge-type when making climatic inferences from their dimensions and chronologies. In this paper, climatic and glacier geometric data are used to show that Scotland was likely the location of a surge cluster during the Loch Lomond Stade (∼12.9–11.7 ka), with high probabilities of surging for outlets of the West Highland Icefield and the larger glaciers in the Inner Hebrides and Northern Highlands. Terrestrial and marine landforms consistent with surging occur in all of these areas, and it is proposed that surge-type glaciers existed on the Islands of Skye and Mull, in the Northern Highlands, and in a ‘surging arc’ along the western, southern and south-eastern margins of the West Highland Icefield. The possibility that surge-type glaciers were widespread in Scotland during the Loch Lomond Stade offers a fresh perspective on some long-standing issues, including the relationship between style of deglaciation and climate change, the climatic significance of glacial chronologies, palaeoclimatic reconstructions, and the interpretation of numerical model results.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScottish Geographical Journal
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date11 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 May 2021


  • Glacial environments
  • Palaeoenvironment/quaternary studies
  • Polar environments


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