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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Pippa Whitehouse

Patton, H., Hubbard, A., Andreassen, K., Auriac, A., Whitehouse, P.L., Stroeven, A., Shackleton, C., Winsborrow, M., Heyman, J. & Hall, A. Deglaciation of the Eurasian ice sheet complex. Quaternary Science Reviews. 2017;169:148-172.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

The Eurasian ice sheet complex (EISC) was the third largest ice mass during the Last Glacial Maximum with a span of over 4500 km and responsible for around 20 m of eustatic sea-level lowering. Whilst recent terrestrial and marine empirical insights have improved understanding of the chronology, pattern and rates of retreat of this vast ice sheet, a concerted attempt to model the deglaciation of the EISC honouring these new constraints is conspicuously lacking. Here, we apply a first-order, thermomechanical ice sheet model, validated against a diverse suite of empirical data, to investigate the retreat of the EISC after 23 ka BP, directly extending the work of Patton et al. (2016) who modelled the build-up to its maximum extent. Retreat of the ice sheet complex was highly asynchronous, reflecting contrasting regional sensitivities to climate forcing, oceanic influence, and internal dynamics. Most rapid retreat was experienced across the Barents Sea sector after 17.8 ka BP when this marine-based ice sheet disintegrated at a rate of ∼670 gigatonnes per year (Gt a−1) through enhanced calving and interior dynamic thinning, driven by oceanic/atmospheric warming and exacerbated by eustatic sea-level rise. From 14.9 to 12.9 ka BP the EISC lost on average 750 Gt a−1, peaking at rates >3000 Gt a−1, roughly equally partitioned between surface melt and dynamic losses, and potentially contributing up to 2.5 m to global sea-level rise during Meltwater Pulse 1A. Independent glacio-isostatic modelling constrained by an extensive inventory of relative sea-level change corroborates our ice sheet loading history of the Barents Sea sector. Subglacial conditions were predominately temperate during deglaciation, with over 6000 subglacial lakes predicted along with an extensive subglacial drainage network. Moreover, the maximum EISC and its isostatic footprint had a profound impact on the proglacial hydrological network, forming the Fleuve Manche mega-catchment which had an area of ∼2.5 × 106 km2 and drained the present day Vistula, Elbe, Rhine and Thames rivers through the Seine Estuary. During the Bølling/Allerød oscillation after c. 14.6 ka BP, two major proglacial lakes formed in the Baltic and White seas, buffering meltwater pulses from eastern Fennoscandia through to the Younger Dryas when these massive proglacial freshwater lakes flooded into the North Atlantic Ocean. Deglaciation temporarily abated during the Younger Dryas stadial at 12.9 ka BP, when remnant ice across Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya, Fennoscandia and Scotland experienced a short-lived but dynamic re-advance. The final stage of deglaciation converged on present day ice cover around the Scandes mountains and the Barents Sea by 8.7 ka BP, although the phase-lagged isostatic recovery still continues today.