Articles | Volume 1, issue 1
Research article
03 Dec 2013
Research article |  | 03 Dec 2013

Rapid marine deglaciation: asynchronous retreat dynamics between the Irish Sea Ice Stream and terrestrial outlet glaciers

H. Patton, A. Hubbard, T. Bradwell, N. F. Glasser, M. J. Hambrey, and C. D. Clark

Abstract. Understanding the retreat behaviour of past marine-based ice sheets provides vital context for accurate assessments of the present stability and long-term response of contemporary polar ice sheets to climate and oceanic warming. Here new multibeam swath bathymetry data and sedimentological analysis are combined with high resolution ice-sheet modelling to reveal complex landform assemblages and process dynamics associated with deglaciation of the Celtic ice sheet within the Irish Sea Basin. Our reconstruction indicates a non-linear relationship between the rapidly receding Irish Sea Ice Stream and the retreat of outlet glaciers draining the adjacent, terrestrially based ice cap centred over Wales. Retreat of Welsh ice was episodic; superimposed over low-order oscillations of its margin are asynchronous outlet readvances driven by catchment-wide mass balance variations that are amplified through migration of the ice cap's main ice divide. Formation of large, linear ridges which extend at least 12.5 km offshore (locally known as sarns) and which dominate the regional bathymetry are attributed to repeated frontal and medial morainic deposition associated with the readvancing phases of these outlet glaciers. Our study provides new insight into ice-sheet extent, dynamics and non-linear retreat across a major palaeo-ice stream confluence zone, and has ramifications for the interpretation of recent fluctuations observed by satellites over short timescales across marine sectors of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.