The impact of the Minch palaeo-ice stream in NW Scotland: Constraining glacial erosion and landscape evolution through geomorphology and cosmogenic nuclide analysis.

Mathers, Hannah (2014) The impact of the Minch palaeo-ice stream in NW Scotland: Constraining glacial erosion and landscape evolution through geomorphology and cosmogenic nuclide analysis. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information:


The British-Irish Ice Sheet (BIIS) is predicted to have deglaciated rapidly from ~ 18 ka, in response to rising sea level and temperature, similar forcings experienced by modern polar ice sheets. As the main conduits of ice mass loss, the reaction of ice streams to these forcings is thought to have been central in determining the mode and timing of this deglaciation. However, lack of understanding of ice stream influence on the glaciology and deglaciation of ice sheets limits confidence in ice sheet model predictions.
NW Scotland is an area of the last BIIS predicted to have been dominated by ice stream onset conditions. This thesis presents results from a geomorphological and terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide (TCN) analysis study which resulted in the production of a composite ice-sheet thermal regime map and retreat chronology for the last BIIS in this region.
Mapping and surface exposure dating suggest that the regional glaciology and landscape evolution was dominated by the presence of ice-stream onset zones during Greenland Stadial-2 (GS-2). Mountain top erratics were uplifted and transported to high elevation during GS-2, before 16.5 ka BP. By inference, mountain summits were covered by ice during maximal ice sheet conditions.
The existence of sharp thermo-mechanical contrasts, developed in response to ice streaming, are proposed as the main controls on bedrock erosion and terrestrial sediment deposition. The interpretation of ‘trimlines’ in NW Scotland as englacial thermo-mechanical boundaries, is verified by the identification of ‘rip-offs’, a newly recognised geomorphic feature in the UK, and by quantitative demonstration of the increase in glacial erosion in the vicinity of these boundaries. Geomorphic and TCN data supports a conceptual model of thermal inversion following ice-stream cessation. The first description of ‘till tails’ in the UK provides insight into the glaciological organisation and thermal evolution of the BIIS.
A dated (17.6 ka BP) terrestrial glacial limit on the north Sutherland coast indicates early ice retreat from the shelf and provides a minimum
constraint on ice-stream cessation. This indicates rapid loss of ice extent and volume following shutdown of the Minch palaeo-ice stream. Major ice sheet reorganisation c. 15-16 ka BP is suggested by the correlation of some lateral margin ages with high elevation erratic deposition ages implying significant ice thinning and margin retreat prior to this time. Additionally, thinning of ~300 m is predicted for some areas prior to 14 ka BP.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Ice sheet, Scotland, Lateglacial, terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide analysis, geomorphology, glacial, Sutherland, Assynt, Coigach, Wester Ross, Eriboll, climate, geology.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QE Geology
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Geography
Supervisor's Name: Fabel, Dr Derek and Bradwell, Dr Tom
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Ms Hannah Mathers
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5302
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2014 10:41
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2014 10:44

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