Ice streaming and the demise of the Last British Ice Sheet: geomorphological evidence, modelling experiments, and cosmogenic nuclide chronology

T. Bradwell, A. Hubbard, D. Fabel, N. Golledge, M. Stoker, J. Everest, A. Finlayson, J. Howe

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We synthesise recent work on the palaeoglaciology of the British-Irish Ice Sheet, focusing on the glacial geomorphology preserved on the seabed around the northern UK [Bradwell et al., 2008]; and a suite of numerical modelling experiments spanning the last ~40 ka [Hubbard et al., 2009]. In addition, we present a new temporal dataset to better constrain the decay of ice stream sectors within the last British Ice Sheet. Our suite of cosmogenic exposure ages dovetails well with the emerging view recorded in other environmental proxies. Modelling experiments, forced by NGRIP ice-core data, show an extremely dynamic ice sheet drained by transient but recurrent ice streams which dynamically switch and fluctuate in extent and intensity on a centennial time-scale. Our Be-10 cosmogenic chronology sheds new light on the timing of ice stream activity and cessation, placing the separation of the British and Fennoscandian ice sheets at ~24 ka BP - closely associated with the iceberg discharge event Heinrich-2. In the NW sector, the Minch Ice Stream, a quasi-stable feature of the last British Ice Sheet, probably scavenged ice from an adjacent catchment shortly before its demise c. 18 ka BP. In the NE sector, a large ice stream in the Moray Firth continued to operate until c. 15 ka BP - whereby model simulations show a rapid collapse, within the space of 100 yrs. Ultimately, the resolution of such short-lived events lies within the uncertainties of currently available dating techniques. Hence, further high-temporal resolution studies are required to explore the role of internal (glaciological) vs external (eustatic and climatic) forcing on the stability of ice streams within marine-terminating ice sheets.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2010, abstract #C51B-03
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010



  • 0730 CRYOSPHERE / Ice streams
  • 0774 CRYOSPHERE / Dynamics
  • 0776 CRYOSPHERE / Glaciology
  • 0798 CRYOSPHERE / Modeling

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