High-resolution numerical simulation of Younger Dryas glaciation in Scotland

N. Golledge, A. Hubbard, D. Sugden

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We use a 500 m resolution three-dimensional thermomechanical ice-sheet model forced by a scaled GRIP temperature pattern to retrodict the extent of glaciers during the Younger Dryas episode in Scotland. Using empirical data from sources spanning half a century we systematically perturb temperature depression, precipitation distribution, and the amount of basal sliding to identify the parameter space that most closely reproduces the glacier margins identified from field investigations. Arithmetic comparison of predicted ice cover with empirical glacier extent enables mismatch to be quantified and an ‘optimum-fit’ timeslice to be identified. This ‘best-fit’ scenario occurs with a maximum mean annual temperature depression from present of View the MathML source and steep eastward and northward gradients imposed on a modern precipitation distribution, coupled with restricted basal sliding. Even small deviations around these values produce considerably less well-fitting glacier configurations, suggesting that only a narrow range of optimal parameterisation exists. Mismatch between modelled and empirically reconstructed glacier extents occurs as a consequence of local conditions not accommodated by the model, such as wind-blown snow accumulation and lake (loch) bathymetry, and where geological evidence is equivocal. At the domain scale, however, our simulation suggests that inception of Scottish glaciers occurs rapidly, and leads to a coherent ice cap within 400 years of initial climatic cooling. According to our model, the ice cap begins to decay relatively early in the stadial, probably as a result of increasing aridity leading to net thinning and recession of many of its margins, with final and catastrophic collapse of the ice cap occurring largely within a century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)888-904
Number of pages17
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2008


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