Research from the University of Dundee has revealed that Scotland’s famous weather played a central role in creating its equally famous geography.
Geoscientists Dr Simon Cook and Dr Martin Kilbride say that heavy precipitation and relatively warm temperatures played a greater role than previously thought in determining how glaciers have shaped iconic landscapes such as Glencoe and the Cairngorms.
In a paper published today in the journal Nature Communications, Dr Cook has developed a new global assessment of glacial erosion rates.
Dr Cook, who is based in the university’s Geography and Environmental Science department, said: “Our research has shown for the first time that climate affects how quickly glaciers are able to erode.
“One mystery is why some glaciers are only able to strip away a hair’s breadth of bedrock each year, whereas others cut down several centimetres per year, and produce huge amounts of sediment.”
The Dundee team’s findings have helped to shine new light on how Scotland’s stunning landscape may have been formed, with today’s peaks and glens likely to be the consequence of how local climatic conditions interacted with a vast ice sheet that once covered the land.
“It’s hard to say for certain what the weather would have been like 20,000 years ago, but there may have been some broad similarities with today. We talk of Dundee as being the sunniest city in Scotland and when you compare it to places like Glasgow then, it is drier,” Dr Cook added.