BRITICE-CHRONO — improving ice sheet forecasting in a warming world, to predict sea-level rise

Looking north along the Minch, from the highest point on northern Raasay.

Stunning views along the Kyle of Durness, north west Scotland.

Landing on Foula — Britain's remotest inhabited island.

A valuable cosmogenic sample from the westernmost point on Foula.

BGS is currently involved in an exciting NERC-funded £3.7 m multi-disciplinary project collecting and dating onshore and offshore material to constrain the timing of the British-Irish ice sheet collapse. The project is sampling seabed and terrestrial sediments laid down by the last ice sheet for radiometric dating, focussing on eight transects running from the continental shelf edge to a short distance onshore. BGS is a key part of the science and operations team led by Prof Chris Clark (University of Sheffield) and including collaborators from eight UK universities and two NERC research centres.

The project aims to reveal the timing and rate of change of ice sheet recession to build the first well constrained ice sheet-wide empirical reconstruction. These data will then be fed into state of the art numerical ice sheet models, to better predict the controls on present day ice sheet retreat in Greenland and west Antarctica.

Over the next five years the project will test the following hypotheses:

  • hypothesis 1: that the marine-influenced ice sheet sectors collapsed rapidly (<1000 years) and that once onshore the ice sheet stabilised and retreated more slowly
  • hypothesis 2: that the main ice catchments draining the British-Irish ice sheet retreated synchronously in response to external climatic and sea level controls
  • hypothesis 3: that the ice-rafted debris (IRD) fluxes derived from the ice sheet on the adjacent continental margin as a function of changes in ice sheet mass balance

The team has already collected over 500 terrestrial samples on eight fieldwork campaigns and has completed the first of two marine cruises on the NERC Royal Research Ship James Cook. To see how successful this 40 day offshore expedition was see the latest activity summary and their ship blogs.A second marine campaign in the North Sea will go ahead in the summer of 2015.


BGS members of the BRITICE-CHRONO team are Dr Tom Bradwel and Dr Jenny Gales, who will work offshore with a team from BGS marine operations led by Iain Pheasant.

Tom is transect leader of both the Minch and Shetland transects, and was part of the original BRITICE team (2001–2004) that compiled the map and database of glacial landforms in Britain. After leading successful field campaigns in north west Scotland, the Isle of Lewis and island-hopping around Shetland, Tom now has a full quota of samples awaiting analysis in the University of Glasgow labs.

Jenny was part of the 15 person science party on the 5200 mile marine cruise around Ireland and western Scotland in July/August 2014. Jenny joined BGS from the British Antarctic Survey in 2013 and was a key member of the team responsible for collecting and interpreting the submarine geological data aboard the RRS James Cook. Iain headed up the seabed sampling operations on board the ship, which collected 207 cores using the BGS vibrocore system. Iain and his team were vital to the success of the project as they have taken seabed samples all round the world, experiencing some of the toughest working conditions.

You can find out more about the project on the new web pages and follow what the team have been up to so far by reading the blog.

Sampling boulders laid down by the last ice sheet in western Lewis.
Off the map: Muckle Flugga lighthouse and Out Stack — the northernmost point in the UK.


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