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Title: The impact of the Minch palaeo-ice stream in NW Scotland : constraining glacial erosion and landscape evolution through geomorphology and cosmogenic nuclide analysis
Author: Mathers, Hannah
ISNI:       0000 0004 5347 3645
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2014
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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 ii 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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: G Geography (General) ; GB Physical geography ; GE Environmental Sciences ; Q Science (General) ; QE Geology