Scotland's Ice Age landforms
Over the last 2.6 million years, the Ice Age glaciers carved and moulded many of the landforms we see today. These glaciers and their meltwater rivers eroded the underlying rocks and laid down deposits of ground-up rock, stones and gravel. They were also responsible for changes in the relative levels of the land and sea and for alterations to river courses. Beyond the ice, constant freezing and thawing created many fascinating 'periglacial' landforms.
Once the ice finally melted, the debris left by the glaciers provided the source materials for Scotland's beaches and the parent materials for our soils. Unstable slopes collapsed in sometimes massive landslides. Vegetation and animals colonised the land. Coastlines rose or sank, and rivers cut their present day courses.
Historically, Scotland's landforms played a key part in the development of the Ice Age theory in the mid-19th century. In particular, they helped convince the Swiss geologist, Louis Agassiz, of the reality of the former existence of glaciers in an area far from high mountains such as the Alps and hence represented compelling evidence for a great Ice Age. Agassiz was especially influenced by the evidence he found in the West Highlands and notably in the Glen Roy area.
The current Ice Age began around 2.6 million years ago, and continues today - although it is warmer in this period, between glacials!
Under the right conditions, glaciers can be very effective agents of erosion through abrading, crushing and quarrying the underlying bedrock.
Rocks on the move are a lasting legacy of the glaciers and a great sources of information.
When the glaciers melted, they fed powerful meltwater rivers.
Beyond the limits of the ice, constant freezing and thawing of water created many fascinating landforms which can still be seen today.
One of the most dramatic effects after the ice was the changing position of the coastline in response to changes in relative sea level.
Last updated on Wednesday 31st March 2010 at 10:13 AM. Click here to comment on this page