Ice dynamics and sediment movement: last glacial cycle, Clyde basin, Scotland

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The nature and behaviour of sediment beneath glaciers influences how they flow and respond to changing environmental conditions. The difficulty of accessing the bed of current glaciers is a key constraint to studying the processes involved. This paper explores an alternative approach by relating sediments under the beds of former mid-latitude ice sheets to changing ice behaviour during a glacial cycle. The paper focuses on the partly marine-based Pleistocene British–Irish ice sheet in the Clyde basin, Scotland. A three-dimensional computation of subsurface glacial sediment distribution is derived from 1260 borehole logs. Sediment distribution is linked to an empirically based reconstruction of ice-sheet evolution, permitting identification of distinctive phases of sedimentation. Maximum sediment mobilization and till deposition (∼0.04 m a–1) occurred during ice advance into the basin from adjacent uplands. Transport distances were generally short. Subglacial processes were influenced locally by the relative stiffness of pre-existing sediments, the permeability of the sub-till lithology, and topography; the resulting mean till thickness is 7.7 m with a high standard deviation of 7.0 m. In places, focused till deposition sealed pre-existing permeable substrates, promoting lower effective pressures. Sediment remobilization by meltwater was a key process as ice margins retreated through the basin.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2012

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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