Map Illustrates Ice Sheet Shrinkage in Last Ice Age

Scientists from the University of Sheffield in England have for the first time brought to life through illustrated maps the shrinkage of the last British ice sheet as it shrunk during the last Ice Age, some 20,000 years ago.

Led by the University of Sheffield’s Professor Chris Clark from the Department of Geography, the team of experts created the maps which showed the ice sheet shrinking over a period of thousands of years, in an effort to understand what effect the current shrinking of ice sheets in parts of the Antarctic and Greenland will have on the speed of sea level rise.

The ice sheet which covered most of Britain, Ireland and the North Sea, had a volume of ice sufficient enough to raise global sea levels by around 2.5 metres when it finally melted.

These maps will allow researchers the ability to understand the mechanisms and rate of change of ice sheet retreat, as well as allowing them to make predictions for our own regions suffering similar retreat.

”It took us over 10 years to gather all the information in order to produce these maps, and we are delighted with the results,” said Professor Chris Clark, from the University of Sheffield´s Department of Geography. “It is great to be able to visualise the ice sheet and notice that retreat speeds up and slows down, and it is vital of course that we learn exactly why. With such understanding we will be able to better predict ice losses in Greenland and Antarctica.”

“In our next phase of work we hope to really tighten up on the timing and rates of retreat in more detail, by dropping tethered corers from a ship to extract seafloor sediments that can be radiocarbon dated,” Clark added.

The maps are based on new information on glacial landforms which were discovered using new technologies that use remote sensing data which is able to image the land surface and seafloor at unprecedented resolutions. Combined with fieldwork dating back as far as the nineteenth century, the final maps were a culmination of much hard work and a variety of data sources.

Source: University of Sheffield

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