We map glacial cirques, and analyse spatial variability in their altitude and aspect to derive a long-term, time-integrated, perspective on climate patterns during former periods of mountain glaciation (likely spanning multiple Quaternary glaciations) in Britain and Ireland. The data reveal that, although air temperatures were important, exposure to moisture-bearing air masses was the key factor in regulating sites of former mountain glacier formation, and indicate that during such periods, moisture supply was largely controlled by North Atlantic westerlies, with notable inland precipitation gradients (precipitation decreasing inland), similar to present day. In places, trends in cirque altitude may also reflect regional differences in the extent of cirque deepening, controlled by the dimensions and dynamics of the glaciers that came to occupy them. Specifically, comparatively deep cirques in coastal locations may reflect the former presence of dynamic (fed by moisture from the North Atlantic), but comparatively small, glaciers (largely confined to their cirques). By contrast, decreasing cirque depth further inland, may reflect the former presence of larger and/or less dynamic ice masses, occupying comparatively continental climatic conditions.
Bibliographical noteWe thank Magali Delmas and an anonymous reviewer for their corrections, comments and suggestions. We are also grateful to the editor Paul Hesse.
- Glacial cirque
- NE Atlantic