Lateglacial and early Holocene climates of the Atlantic margins of Europe: Stable isotope, mollusc and pollen records from Orkney, Scotland

Graeme Whittington, Kevin J. Edwards*, Giovanni Zanchetta, David H. Keen, M. Jane Bunting, Anthony E. Fallick, Charlotte L. Bryant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The margins of mainland Europe, and especially those areas coming under the influence of North Atlantic weather systems, are ideally placed to record changing palaeoclimates. Cores from an infilled lake basin at Crudale Meadow in Mainland, Orkney, revealed basal deposits of calcareous mud ('marl') beneath sedge peat. Stable isotope, palynological and molluscan analyses allowed the establishment of palaeoenvironmental changes through the Devensian Lateglacial and the early Holocene. The δ18Omarl record exhibited the existence of possibly four climatic oscillations in the Lateglacial (one of which, within event cf. GI-1c, is not often commented upon), as well as the Preboreal Oscillation and other Holocene perturbations. The cold episodes succeeding the Preboreal Oscillation were demarcated conservatively and one of these (event C5, ~11.0ka) may have previously been unremarked, while the putative 9.3 and 8.2ka events seem not to produce corresponding palynologically visible floristic changes. The events at Crudale Meadow are consistent with those recorded at other sites from Britain, Ireland and elsewhere, and can be correlated with isotopic changes shown by the Greenland ice cores. The multi-proxy approach enriches the environmental reconstructions from the site, although the synchronicity of the response of the various proxies is sometimes equivocal, depending upon the time period concerned, taphonomy, and the nature of the deposits. The site may contain the most northerly Lateglacial isotope record from northwest Europe, and it has yielded one of the best archives for the demonstration of abrupt early Holocene events within Britain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-130
Number of pages19
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date9 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

Thanks are due to Colin Cameron for the pollen preparations and the loss on ignition tests; NERC for the provision of radiocarbon dates (NRCF010001); Alison Sandison for artwork; and W. Cutness for permission to work at Crudale Meadow. GZ thanks the Italian National Council for Research for grants to support two 6-month visits to SUERC, which is supported by NERC and a group of Scottish Universities. Aspects of the research reported herein benefitted from the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, the Environment and Society (SAGES). The authors greatly appreciate the comprehensive comments of two anonymous referees and the constructive advice of the editor. This paper is dedicated to the memory of David Keen.


  • Britain
  • Europe
  • Greenland
  • Ireland
  • Isotopes
  • Molluscs
  • North Atlantic
  • Orkney
  • Palaeoclimates
  • Palynology


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