The last Scottish Ice Sheet

Colin K. Ballantyne*, David Small

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

The last Scottish Ice Sheet (SIS) expanded from a pre-existing ice cap after ∼35 ka. Highland ice dominated, with subsequent build-up of a Southern Uplands ice mass. The Outer Hebrides, Skye, Mull, the Cairngorms and Shetland supported persistent independent ice centres. Expansion was accompanied by ice-divide migration and switching flow directions. Ice nourished in Scotland reached the Atlantic Shelf break in some sectors but only mid-shelf in others, was confluent with the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet (FIS) in the North Sea Basin, extended into northern England, and fed the Irish Sea Ice Stream and a lobe that reached East Anglia. The timing of maximum extent was diachronous, from ∼30–27 ka on the Atlantic Shelf to ∼22–21 ka in Yorkshire. The SIS buried all mountains, but experienced periods of thickening alternating with drawdown driven by ice streams such as the Minch, the Hebrides and the Moray Firth Ice Streams. Submarine moraine banks indicate oscillating retreat and progressive decoupling of Highland ice from Orkney–Shetland ice. The pattern and timing of separation of the SIS and FIS in the North Sea Basin remain uncertain. Available evidence suggests that by ∼17 ka, much of the Sea of the Hebrides, the Outer Hebrides, Caithness and the coasts of E Scotland were deglaciated. By ∼16 ka, the Solway lowlands, Orkney and Shetland were deglaciated, the SIS and Irish Ice Sheet had separated, the ice margin lay along the western seaboard, nunataks had emerged in Wester Ross, the ice margin lay N of the Cairngorms and the sea had invaded the Tay and Forth estuaries. By ∼15 ka, most of the Southern Uplands, the Firth of Clyde, the Midland Valley and the upper Spey valley were deglaciated, and in NW Scotland ice was retreating from fjords and valleys. By the onset of rapid warming at ∼14.7 ka, much of the remnant SIS was confined within the limits of Younger Dryas glaciation. The SIS, therefore, lost most of its mass during the Dimlington Stade. It is uncertain whether fragments of the SIS persisted on high ground throughout the Lateglacial Interstade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93–131
Number of pages39
JournalEarth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
Volume110
Issue number1-2
Early online date15 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

Keywords

  • British–Irish Ice Sheet
  • Deglaciation
  • Dimlington Stade
  • Flowsets
  • Ice streams
  • Late Devensian
  • Lithostratigraphy
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Readvances
  • Terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide dating

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