The sea level rise and the colossal amounts of meltwater discharged from the collapsing ice sheet meant that areas that previously were land eventually became seabed. Britain and Ireland, which had been joined to Europe throughout the last ice age, finally separated with the flooding of the English Channel around 10,000 years ago. Credit: Henry Patton/CAGE
June 27, 2017 (Phys.org) -- Scientists have reconstructed in detail the collapse of the Eurasian ice sheet at the end of the last ice age. The big melt wreaked havoc across the European continent, driving home the original Brexit 10,000 years ago.
The Eurasian ice sheet was an enormous conveyor of ice that covered most of northern Europe some 23,000 years ago. Its extent was such that a skier could have traversed 4,500 km continuously across its expanse from the far southwestern isles in Britain to Franz Josef Land in the Siberian Arctic. Its existence had a massive and extremely hostile impact on Europe at the time.
This ice sheet alone lowered the global sea level by over 20 meters. As it melted and collapsed, it caused severe flooding across the continent, led to dramatic sea level rise, and diverted mega-rivers that raged on the continent. A new model investigating the retreat of this ice sheet and its many impacts has just been published in Quaternary Science Reviews.
Ten times the melt of Greenland and Antarctica today
"Our model experiments show that from 15,000 to 13,000 years ago, the Eurasian ice sheet lost 750 cubic kilometres of ice a year. For short periods, it peaked at ice loss rates of over 3,000 cubic kilometres per year," says first author Henry Patton, researcher at CAGE Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate at UiT The Arctic University of Norway. A cubic kilometre of ice contains 1 billion tonnes of water. Now multiply that by 3,000.