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Topographic controls on plateau icefield recession: insights from the Younger Dryas Monadhliath Icefield, Scotland

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Plateau icefields are a common form of mountain ice mass, frequently found in mid-latitude to high-arctic regions and increasingly recognised in the Quaternary record. Their top-heavy hypsometry makes them highly sensitive to changes in climate when the ELA lies above the plateau edge, allowing ice to expand significantly as regional ELAs decrease, and causing rapid recession as climate warms. With respect to future climate warming, it is important to understand the controls on plateau icefield response to climate change in order to better predict recession rates, with implications for water resources and sea-level rise. Improving knowledge of controls on glacier recession may also enable further palaeoclimatic information to be extracted from the Quaternary glacial record. We use the distribution of moraines to examine topographic controls on Younger Dryas icefield recession in Scotland. We find that overall valley morphology influences the style of recession, through microclimatic and geometric controls, with bed gradient affecting moraine spacing. Ice mass reconfiguration may occur as recession progresses because ice divide migration could alter the expected response based on hypsometric distribution. These results add to a growing body of research examining controls on glacier recession and offer the potential of unravelling non-linear ice mass behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Early online date28 Jul 2019
Publication statusEarly online - 28 Jul 2019


  • Boston and Lukas_postprint

    Rights statement: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Boston, C. M. and Lukas, S. (2019), 'Topographic controls on plateau icefield recession: insights from the Younger Dryas Monadhliath Icefield, Scotland'. Journal of Quaternary Science. DOI: 10.1002/jqs.3111, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 4.07 MB, PDF document

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