The deglaciation of the western sector of the Irish Ice Sheet from the inner continental shelf to its terrestrial margin

Authors Organisations
  • David H. Roberts(Author)
    University of Durham
  • Colm Ó Cofaigh(Author)
    University of Durham
  • Colin K. Ballantyne(Author)
    University of St Andrews
  • Matthew Burke(Author)
    Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • Richard C. Chiverrell(Author)
    Liverpool University
  • David J.A. Evans(Author)
    University of Durham
  • Chris D. Clark(Author)
    University of Sheffield
  • Geoff Duller(Author)
  • Jeremy Ely(Author)
    University of Sheffield
  • Derek Fabel(Author)
    Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
  • David Small(Author)
    University of Durham
  • Rachel K. Smedley(Author)
    Liverpool University
  • S. Louise Callard(Author)
    University of Newcastle
Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Early online date01 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 01 Jun 2020
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This paper provides a new deglacial chronology for retreat of the Irish Ice Sheet from the continental shelf of western Ireland to the adjoining coastline, a region where the timing and drivers of ice recession have never been fully constrained. Previous work suggests maximum ice-sheet extent on the outer western continental shelf occurred at ~26–24 cal. ka BP with the initial retreat of the ice marked by the production of grounding-zone wedges between 23–21.1 cal. ka BP. However, the timing and rate of ice-sheet retreat from the inner continental shelf to the present coast are largely unknown. This paper reports 31 new terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide (TCN) ages from erratics and ice-moulded bedrock and three new optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages on deglacial outwash. The TCN data constrain deglaciation of the near coast (Aran Islands) to ~19.5–18.5 ka. This infers ice retreated rapidly from the mid-shelf after 21 ka, but the combined effects of bathymetric shallowing and pinning acted to stabilize the ice at the Aran Islands. However, marginal stability was short-lived, with multiple coastal sites along the Connemara/Galway coasts demonstrating ice recession under terrestrial conditions by 18.2–17. ka. This pattern of retreat continued as ice retreated eastward through inner Galway Bay by 16.5 ka. South of Galway, the Kilkee–Kilrush Moraine Complex and Scattery Island moraines point to late stage re-advances of the ice sheet into southern County Clare ~14.1–13.3 ka, but the large errors associated with the OSL ages make correlation with other regional re-advances difficult. It seems more likely that these moraines are the product of regional ice lobes adjusting to internal ice-sheet dynamics during deglaciation in the time window 17–16 ka.