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  • OCofaigh_etal_JQS_Jan2021

    Accepted author manuscript, 3.95 MB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 31/12/99

  • Colm O'Cofaigh
    Durham University
  • Sarah Louise Callard
    Newcastle University
  • David Roberts
    Durham University
  • Richard Chiverrell
    University of Liverpool
  • David Evans
    Durham University
  • Margot Saher
  • Katrien Van Landeghem
  • Rachel Smedley
    University of Liverpool
  • Sara Benetti
    Ulster University
  • Matthew Burke
    University of Liverpool
  • Chris Clark
    Sheffield University
  • Geoff Duller
    Aberystwyth University
  • Stephen Livingstone
    Sheffield University
  • Stephen McCarron
    Maynooth University
  • Alicia Medialdea
    Sheffield UniversityUniversity of Cologne
  • Steven Moreton
    Natural Environment Research Council, Radiocarbon Facility, East Kilbride, Scotland, G75 OQF, UK
  • Fabio Sachetti
    Marine Institute, Oranmore, Co. Galway, Ireland
Understanding the pace and drivers of marine-based ice-sheet retreat relies upon the integration of numerical ice-sheet models with observations from contemporary polar ice sheets and well-constrained palaeo-glaciological reconstructions. This paper is a reconstruction of the retreat of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet (BIIS) from the Atlantic shelf west of Ireland during and following, the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). It uses marine-geophysical data and sediment cores dated by radiocarbon, combined with terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide and optically-stimulated luminescence dating of onshore ice-marginal landforms, to reconstruct the timing and rate of ice-sheet retreat from the continental shelf and across the adjoining coastline of Ireland, thus including the switch from a marine- to a terrestrially-based ice-sheet margin. Seafloor bathymetric data in the form of moraines and grounding-zone wedges on the continental shelf record an extensive ice sheet west of Ireland during the LGM which advanced to the outer shelf. This interpretation is supported by the presence of dated subglacial tills and overridden glacimarine sediments from across the Porcupine Bank, a westwards extension of the Irish continental shelf. The ice sheet was grounded on the outer shelf at ~26.8 ka cal BP with initial retreat underway by 25.9 ka cal BP. Retreat was not a continuous process but was punctuated by marginal oscillations until ~24.3 ka cal BP. The ice sheet thereafter retreated to the mid-shelf where it formed a large grounding-zone complex at ~23.7 ka cal BP. This retreat occurred in a glacimarine environment. The Aran Islands on the inner continental shelf were ice free by ~19.5 ka BP and the ice sheet had become largely terrestrially-based by 17.3 ka BP. This suggests that the Aran Islands acted to stabilise and slow overall ice-sheet retreat once the BIIS margin had reached the inner-shelf. Our results constrain the timing of initial retreat of the BIIS from the outer shelf west of Ireland to the period of minimum global eustatic sea level. Initial retreat was driven, at least in part, by glacio-isostatically-induced, high relative sea level. Net rates of ice-sheet retreat across the shelf were slow (62-19 m/yr) and reduced (8 m/yr) as the ice sheet vacated the inner shelf and moved onshore. A picture therefore emerges of an extensive BIIS on the Atlantic shelf west of Ireland, in which early, oscillatory retreat was followed by slow episodic retreat which decelerated further as the ice-margin became terrestrially-based. More broadly this demonstrates the importance of localised controls, in particular bed topography, on modulating the retreat of marine-based sectors of ice sheets.


  • British-Irish Ice Sheet, Porcupine Bank, western Ireland, Last Glacial Maximum, ice sheet extent, subglacial till, glacimarine sediments, radiocarbon dating, ice sheet retreat
Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1002/jqs.3295
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Feb 2021
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