Reconstruction and regional significance of the Coire Breac palaeoglacier, Glen Esk, eastern Grampian Highlands, Scotland

Martin P. Kirkbride, Wishart A. Mitchell, Mhari Barnes

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    We present a glaciological and climatic reconstruction of a former glacier in Coire Breac, an isolated cirque within the Eastern Grampian plateau of Scotland, 5 km from the Highland edge. Published glacier reconstructions of presumed Younger Dryas-age glaciers in this area show that equilibrium line altitudes decreased steeply towards the east coast, implying a maritime glacial environment. Extrapolation of the ELA trend surface implies that glaciers should have existed in suitable locations on the plateau, a landscape little modified by glaciation. In Coire Breac, a 0.35 km2 cirque glacier existed with an equilibrium line altitude of 487 ± 15 m above present sea level. The equilibrium line altitude matches closely the extrapolated regional equilibriumline altitude trend surface for Younger Dryas Stadial glaciers. The mean glacier thickness of 24 m gives an ice volume of 7.8 x 106 m3, and a maximum basal shear stress of c. 100 kPa-1. Ablation gradient was c. -0.0055 m m-1, with a mean July temperature at the equilibrium line altitude of c. 5.1°C. The reconstruction implies an arctic maritime climate of low precipitation with local accumulation enhanced by blown snow, which may explain the absence of other contemporary glaciers nearby. Reconstructed ice flow lines show zones of flow concentration around the lower ice margin which help to explain the distribution of depositional facies associated with a former debris cover which may have delayed eventual glacier retreat. No moraines in the area have been dated, so palaeoclimatic interpretations remain provisional, and a pre-Lateglacial Interstadial age cannot be ruled out.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)563-577
    Number of pages15
    JournalGeografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography
    Issue number3
    Early online date11 Feb 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


    • Glacier reconstruction
    • Grampian Highlands
    • equilibrium-line altitude
    • Younger Dryas
    • palaeoclimatic reconstruction

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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