New analysis reveals British Isles buried beneath ice sheets 2.5 million years in the past

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Credit: University of Manchester

Breakthrough analysis has revealed the British Isles had been repeatedly submerged beneath an ice sheet extending to the centre of the North Sea over 1,000,000 years sooner than beforehand thought.


A workforce led by scientists from The University of Manchester and University of Aberdeen analysed sediment cores and seismic knowledge from deep beneath the North Sea, and found that intensive ice sheets repeatedly coated a lot of the UK and Ireland from 2.5 million years in the past.

At the identical time, an excellent bigger coated a lot of Scandinavia. Back then the North Sea, was narrower and deeper than it’s at the moment, like a big ‘fjord’. Periodically, the ice sheets from the British Isles and Scandinavia superior into water depths of round 250 m and generated icebergs practically 300 m excessive.

By 1.9 million years in the past the 2 ice sheets repeatedly merged within the centre of the North Sea, filling the ‘fjord’, as they superior and retreated in response to local weather modifications managed by the Earth’s orbit.

Up to now, the scientific consensus has been that glaciation on this scale first occurred within the North Sea about 1.1 million years in the past.

However, the brand new analysis, which has been revealed within the journal Science Advances, exhibits it first occurred 1.four million years earlier. This marks a major breakthrough in our understanding of the extent of previous glaciation in North West Europe.

The examine was carried out by geoscientists from the colleges of Aberdeen, Manchester, Sheffield and Queen’s University Belfast, Apache North Sea Ltd., RPS Ichron, Mærsk Olie og Gas and Lloyds Register.

The analysis required a multidisciplinary method and Dr. Rachel Harding, a researcher primarily based at The University of Manchester, stated: “The North Sea basin has been subsiding for tens of millions of years, frequently preserving layer upon layer of proof for previous ice sheets, the proof for which isn’t obtainable onshore. Using geophysical knowledge we then searched these totally different layers for traces of long-disappeared ice sheets.”

Dr. Andrew Newton, from Queen’s University Belfast and a visiting researcher on the University of Manchester, co-led the mission with Dr. Brice Rea from the University of Aberdeen. Dr. Newton stated: “From these outcomes we found that if you happen to had been to go to the North Sea 2.5 million years in the past, Britain would have been beneath an ice and you’d have seen huge icebergs floating across the North Sea and as far south because the coast of the Netherlands.”

Professor Mads Huuse, additionally from the University’s School of Earth and Environmental Science, continued: “This work has utterly rewritten our understanding of the glacial historical past of the North Sea and proven that enormous ice sheets regularly coated the British Isles from 2.5 million years in the past. Then, from about 1.9 million years in the past, the British and Scandinavian ice sheets usually merged collectively in the course of the North Sea throughout totally different ice ages, encasing a lot of northwest Europe beneath a blanket of ice.”


Explore additional:
Discovery of ancient undersea spirals may improve understanding of climate change

More data:
Extensive marine-terminating ice sheets in Europe from 2.5 million years in the past. Science Advances (2018) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar8327

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