Megagrooves and streamlined bedrock in NW Scotland : the role of ice streams in landscape evolution

Bradwell, Tom; Stoker, Martyn; Krabbendam, Maarten. 2008 Megagrooves and streamlined bedrock in NW Scotland : the role of ice streams in landscape evolution. Geomorphology, 97 (1-2). 135-156.

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New multibeam bathymetry data, onshore high-resolution elevation data (NEXTMap) and fieldwork in the Ullapool area of NW Scotland reveal large-scale megagrooves and streamlined bedrock forms in a well-defined 20 km wide zone. The landsystem is typical of a coherent flow corridor within a grounded ice sheet on bedrock-dominated terrain. We describe the morphology of the large-scale features, discuss their likely formation, and consider the wider implications for ice-sheet dynamics. Based on the strongly convergent bedform distribution, the presence of megagrooves and highly elongate bedrock forms, we interpret the erosional landscape to be the signature of a fast-flowing tributary that once fed the The Minch palaeo-ice stream — a major artery of the last British–Irish ice sheet. The exact genesis of bedrock megagrooves remains uncertain, although focused subglacial abrasion is likely to have carved most of the shallow, strongly parallel, features; whilst glacial meltwater may have carved or modified others. Bedform morphometry is used to discriminate zones reflecting the degree of glacial streamlining (elongation ratios < 5:1 or > 5:1). We interpret these zones to represent the transition from potentially cold-based slow ice-sheet flow to warm-based fast flow. Based on these results, and the presence of ribbed moraines, we suggest a bedform continuum model for onset zones of palaeo-ice streams on rigid beds. Rapid spatial bedform evolution is suggested to reflect an increase in subglacial erosive power that may be diagnostic of palaeo-ice-sheet thermal boundaries (i.e. from cold- to warm-based), and is also consistent with the expected downstream increase in ice velocity within an ice-stream onset zone. Finally, this study speculates on the role played by basal meltwater in ice-stream initiation and the role of ice streams and their tributaries in landscape evolution.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes > Geology and Landscape Northern
ISSN: 0169-555X
Additional Keywords: Palaeo-ice stream, onset zone, glacial lineations, NW Scotland
NORA Subject Terms: Glaciology
Earth Sciences
Date made live: 25 Feb 2008 17:09 +0 (UTC)

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