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Glacial Geology

Earth's glacial geological record spans the Quaternary and earlier glaciations through geological time. The Quaternary record of past ice sheets is found both on land and in marine sediments. Glacial geological investigations usually comprise both sedimentological and stratigraphic elements and, where, possible detailed chronological control. Recent work has included studies of the glacial history of Europe and the UK and the Quaternary stratigraphy of the Canadian Beaufort margin (Batchelor et al., 2013, 2014), and previous work has also involved the late Ordovician glacial rocks of Northern Africa (e.g. Le Heron and Dowdeswell, 2009).

Research projects

Research projects currently being undertaken on this theme include:

Semi-automated mapping of glacial landforms

Semi-automated mapping of glacial landforms

Landforms left behind by retreating glaciers and ice sheets are indicative of former basal conditions and ice flow. Traditional methods of mapping landforms from aerial or satellite data typically rely on manual digitising methods. We have been developing tools that can be used to map such landforms semi-automatically, providing a quicker, less subjective, and more consistent approach to landform mapping.

The Pleistocene History of the Birmingham District

The Pleistocene History of the Birmingham District

Birmingham, England, is built on a complex sequence of Middle Pleistocene sediments representing at least three lowland glaciations (Anglian, Wolstonian, and Devenisan). Geological mapping accounts for 75% of the landmass as Quaternary, that is, predominantly glacial-sandy till, glacial-fluvial sand, and clay and organic silt/peat. Understanding the age of Quaternary deposits related to specific glaciations is critical to establishing a geochronology of Birmingham.

British-Irish Ice Sheet during the Devensian Stage in the Vale of York

British-Irish Ice Sheet during the Devensian Stage in the Vale of York

Current understanding of dynamics of the British-Irish Ice Sheet (BIIS) in eastern England during the Devensian Stage is that ice lobes in the Vale of York and North Sea Basin were asynchronous. New sedimentological and geochemical data from four cores through the basin fill in the central part of the Vale of York, together with six, three-dimensional geological models developed from 3050 core logs of superficial deposits in the region, have provided critical new insights into the terrestrial response in central eastern England to climate forcing during the Devensian Stage.

Engineering geology of formerly glaciated and periglaciated terrains

Engineering geology of formerly glaciated and periglaciated terrains

This project aims to investigate the influence of past terrestrial glacier and ground ice formation and decay on the variability in geotechnical properties and behaviour of Quaternary engineering soils. Geological bedrock of the Oxford Clay Formation and clay-rich diamicton (till) in the geographical area of the English south Midlands is investigated in in relation to the middle Pleistocene Anglian (Elsterian) glacial limit.

Pleistocene glaciation of Fenland, England and its implications for evolution of the region

Pleistocene glaciation of Fenland, England and its implications for evolution of the region

The East Anglian Fenland is a striking region in the English landscape, its low-lying nature belying the apparent lack of striking geological features. Rivers from the surrounding uplands to the east, south and west enter the Fenland, discharging into the The Wash, where they enter the North Sea. Extensive areas now slightly above or below present sea level, enclosing island-like high ground, the geology is sensitive to sea-level changes. These have affected the nature of sediments deposited over the last half-million years, a period associated with Middle and Late Pleistocene glaciation. Although the history and filling of the basin during the Holocene (from c.11 ky) has been thoroughly investigated, and despite the abundant geological information available, the basin's earlier, post-Anglian, history has received no treatment.