Palaeoclimatic reconstruction from Lateglacial (Younger Dryas Chronozone) cirque glaciers in Snowdonia, North Wales

Jacob Bendle, Neil Glasser

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35 Citations (SciVal)


The cirques of Snowdonia, North Wales were last occupied by glacier ice during the Younger Dryas Chronozone (YDC), c. 12.9–11.7 ka. New mapping presented here indicates 38 small YDC cirque glaciers formed in Snowdonia, covering a total area of 20.74 km2. Equilibrium line altitudes (ELAs) for these glaciers, calculated using an area–altitude balance ratio (AABR) approach, ranged from 380 to 837 m asl. A northeastwards rise in YDC ELAs across Snowdonia is consistent with southwesterly snow-bearing winds. Regional palaeoclimate reconstructions indicate that the YDC in North Wales was colder and drier than at present. Palaeotemperature and annual temperature range estimates, derived from published palaeoecological datasets, were used to reconstruct values of annual accumulation and ‘winter balance plus summer precipitation’ using a degree-day model (DDM) and non-linear regression function, respectively. The DDM acted as the best-estimate for stadial precipitation and yielded values between 2073 and 2687 mm a−1 (lapse rate: 0.006 °C m−1) and 1782–2470 mm a−1 (lapse rate: 0.007 °C m−1). Accounting for the potential input of windblown and avalanched snow onto former glacier surfaces, accumulation values dropped to between 1791 and 2616 mm a−1 (lapse rate: 0.006 °C m−1) and 1473–2390 mm a−1 (lapse rate: 0.007 °C m−1). The spatial pattern of stadial accumulation suggests a steep precipitation gradient and provides verification of the northeastwards rise in ELAs. Glaciers nearer the coast of North Wales were most responsive to fluctuations in climate during the YDC, responding to sea-ice enforced continentality during the coldest phases of the stadial and to abrupt warming at the end of the stadial.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-145
Number of pages16
JournalProceedings of the Geologists' Association
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • cirque glaciers
  • Palaeoclimatic reconstructions
  • degree-day model
  • Younger Dryas
  • Snowdonia
  • North Wales


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