Edge-roundness of boulders of Torridonian Sandstone (northwest Scotland): applications for relative dating and implications for warm and cold climate weathering rates

Authors


  • Martin P. Kirkbride (e-mail: m.p.kirkbride@dundee.ac.uk) and Cara M. Bell, Environmental Systems Research Group, School of Social and Environmental Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, UK

Abstract

Kirkbride, M.P. & Bell, C.M. 2009: Edge-roundness of boulders of Torridonian Sandstone (northwest Scotland): applications for relative dating and implications for warm and cold climate weathering rates. Boreas, 10.1111/j. 1502-3885.2009.00131.x. ISSN 0300-9483.

The relative ages of late Quaternary morainic and rock avalanche deposits on Late Precambrian Torridonian Sandstone are determined from the characteristic edge-roundness of constituent boulders. Because weathering of sandstone is manifest as edge-rounding by granular disintegration, a relative chronology can be derived by measuring the effective radii of curvature of a sample of boulder edges. Thirteen samples totalling 597 individual boulder edges fall into two statistically distinct groups. Moraines of inferred Younger Dryas age (12.9–11.5 kyr BP) are distinguished from moraines of the Wester Ross Re-advance (≤14.0 kyr BP). One moraine previously assumed to be of Younger Dryas age is reassigned to the older group. The method allows spatial extrapolation of deposit ages from dated sites where lithological and sampling criteria are met. Calculated rates of edge-rounding imply that granular disintegration was several times more rapid during cold stadial climates than during the Holocene. Used as a proxy for boulder ‘erosion rate’, this indicates that surface loss of grains in glacial climates exceeds that during interglacials by a factor of 2–5, with implications for the calculation of exposure ages from cosmogenic nuclides.

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