Extensive marine-terminating ice sheets in Europe from 2.5 million years ago
Authors: Brice R Rea, Andrew M W Newton, Rachel M Lamb, Rachel Harding, Grant R Bigg, Phil Rose, Matteo Spagnolo, Mads Huuse, John M L Cater, Stuart Archer, Francis Buckley, Maral Halliyeva, Jane Huuse, David G Cornwell, Simon H Brocklehurst, John A Howell
Journal: Science Advances
Publication Date: 13 June, 2018
Department of: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Unravelling the early history of glaciation in NW Europe by looking under the North Sea
From 2.58 to 0.78 million years ago, ice sheets waxed and waned across northwest Europe. The evidence for this comes from material deposited by icebergs in the North Atlantic Ocean. However, though this information is useful, it provides limited information on the geometries and dynamics of the ancient ice sheets providing these icebergs. This is a crucial gap in our understanding of past ocean-atmosphere-cryosphere coupling. Other records suggest that from 1.2 million years ago, ice sheet behaviour changed in response to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, resulting in volumetrically larger and longer-lived ice sheets. Now, researchers from the University of Manchester, with their collaborators around the UK and in Denmark, have carried out, a multi-discipline analysis on sediments buried up to a kilometre below the present-day seafloor of the North Sea. This showed that ice sheets repeatedly advanced into the North Sea from 2.53 million years ago, before eventually advancing to the centre of the North Sea and joining the Scandinavian Ice Sheet 1.87 million years ago. This has dramatic and paradigm-shifting implications for our understanding of ancient ice sheets and suggests that although thinner, through the complex interplay of ice physics and geology, these ancient ice sheets were near comparable in spatial extent to those from the more recent past.
- NW Europe was previously thought to have been covered by massive ice sheets repeatedly from about 1.1 million years ago.
- Reconstruction of the ancient geography of the North Sea pushes that date back by 1.4 million years, to 2.53 million years ago
- During the last 2.53 million year, ancient ice sheets have repeatedly buried Britain under massive ice sheets that extended into the North Sea