Late Devensian deglaciation of south‐west Wales from luminescence and cosmogenic isotope dating

Neil Glasser, Jeremy Davies, Michael Hambrey, B. J. Davies, D. M. Gheorghiu, J. Balfour, Rachel Smedley, G. A. T. Duller

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The Welsh Ice Cap was a dynamic component of the last British–Irish Ice Sheet at the Last Glacial Maximum, but there are few chronological constraints on the pace and timing of deglaciation. This paper presents new geomorphological and geochronological evidence that constrains the timing of the separation of the Welsh Ice Cap from the Irish Sea Ice Stream and the subsequent deglaciation of south‐west Wales; and allow these to be assessed in the context of late Pleistocene climatic events. Luminescence ages from glacial outwash sediments south of Cardigan demonstrate that the Irish Sea Ice Stream was receding by ∼26.7 ka. The subsequent recession of the Welsh Ice Cap is documented by cosmogenic ages from landforms and sediments in the Aeron and Teifi valleys and upland areas. Deglaciation of the Cambrian Mountains was underway by ∼19.6 ka. Cross‐valley moraines and associated deglaciation deposits show that minor re‐advances interrupted the recession of the Aeron Glacier twice, and the Teifi Glacier on at least 12 occasions. By ∼14.9 ka, the Aeron valley was probably ice‐free, but the northwards withdrawal of the Teifi glacier had halted in the Tregaron area. The final rapid recession of this glacier into the uplands of central Wales was completed during the Windermere Interstadial (13.5 cal ka BP) when, in common with much of the UK, the whole of Wales is believed to have become ice‐free. There is no evidence that the Cambrian Mountains contained ice‐free enclaves at the Last Glacial Maximum, as has been previously suggested. The new ages presented here support suggestions that there was rapid change in the configuration of the Welsh Ice Cap between 20 and 17 ka as upland areas became exposed and there was increasing topographic control on patterns of ice discharge
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)804-818
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number7
Early online date13 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2018


  • cosmogenic isotopes
  • deglaciation
  • Irish Sea Ice Stream
  • luminescence dating
  • Welsh Ice Cap


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