Dynamics of the British Ice Sheet and prevailing hydrographic conditions for the last 175,000 years : an investigation of marine sediment core MD04-2822 from the Rockall Trough
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This study presents a stratigraphic investigation of the marine sediment core MD04-2822 from the Rockall Trough (56° 50.54’ N, 11° 22.96’ W; 2344 m water depth). This core is currently the only available high resolution record for the calibration of Late Quaternary sedimentary sequences of the British (Hebridean) margin. It therefore offers an unprecedented archive of changing sedimentological and climatological conditions for the last 175,000 years. The high resolution, multi-proxy records have enabled surface and deep water conditions within the Rockall Trough to be reconstructed. In addition, the fluctuating nature of ice-rafted debris (IRD) inputs to the MD04-2822 site allows a first order attempt of BIS dynamics for the entirety of the last glacial period (i.e. from the demise of the last interglacial to the decay of the Devensian/Weichselian ice sheet) as well as the majority of the penultimate (Saalian/MIS 6) glaciation. Sediment core MD04-2822 is ideally located to capture the dynamics of the British Ice Sheet (BIS) via a continuous record of IRD and fine-grained terrigenous inputs. Fundamental to this is the construction of a robust chronology. This was achieved via: the correlation of the benthic δ¹⁸O record to a global δ¹⁸O stack (SPECMAP); the correlation of the surface proxies (% N. pachyderma (sinistral) and XRF Ca) to the Greenland δ¹⁸O and Antarctic methane ice core records; and radiocarbon dating. This chronology was validated using both radiocarbon dating and tephra horizons. An evaluation of the event stratigraphy approach used in the construction of the MD04-2822 chronology is presented. The marine record provides a valuable archive of past ice sheet dynamics as much terrestrial evidence is removed or obscured by subsequent ice sheet oscillations MD04-2822 provides the first evidence for the expansion of the BIS onto the Hebridean Margin during MIS6 (thereby confirming previous long-range seismic correlations). The continuous sedimentation at MD04-2822 enabled the first insights into the early dynamics of the last BIS. Increases in IRD and fine grained terrigenous material delivered to the MD04-2822 at ca. 72 kyr represent the first significant delivery of material from the BIS across the continental shelf to the core site. The BIS would therefore have attained a marine calving margin by this time. A multi-proxy investigation of provenance was undertaken, however unequivocal provenance determinations remain problematic. The location of the core suggest the proximal BIS as the most likely source of terrigenous inputs. The expanded nature of the MD04-2822 sediments during the penultimate deglacial (Termination II) provides the first details of BIS dynamics for this period: the interplay of large inputs of freshwater from the decay of the Saalian (MIS 6) ice sheets (including the BIS) upon the surface and deep water circulation of the North Atlantic is investigated. In addition, sub-orbital climatic variability is documented at this location throughout the last interglacial (MIS 5e) and appears to be an intrinsic feature of both the N.E. Atlantic surface and deep water circulation of the last 175 kyr.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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