Deep-water geomorphology of the glaciated Irish margin from high-resolution marine geophysical data

F. Sacchetti, S. Benetti, A. Georgiopoulou, P. M. Shannon, B. M. O'Reilly, P. Dunlop, R. Quinn, C. Ó Cofaigh

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The continental margin offshore of western Ireland offers an opportunity to study the effects of glacial forcing on the morphology and sediment architecture of a mid-latitude margin. High resolution multibeam bathymetry and backscatter data, combined with shallow seismic and TOBI deep-towed side-scan sonar profiles, provide the basis for this study and allow a detailed geomorphological interpretation of the northwest Irish continental margin. Several features, including submarine mass failures, canyon systems and escarpments, are identified in the Rockall Trough for the first time. A new physiographic classification of the Irish margin is proposed and linked to the impact of glaciations along the margin. Correlation of the position and dimensions of moraines on the continental shelf with the level of canyon evolution suggests that the sediment and meltwater delivered by the British-Irish Ice Sheet played a fundamental role in shaping the margin including the upslope development of some of the canyon systems. The glacial influence is also suggested by the variable extent and backscatter signal of sedimentary lobes associated with the canyons. These lobes provide an indirect measurement of the amount of glaciogenic sediment delivered by the ice sheet into the Rockall Trough during the last glacial maximum. None of the sedimentary lobes demonstrates notable relief, indicating that the amount of glaciogenic sediment delivered by the British-Irish Ice Sheet into the Rockall Trough was limited. Their southward disappearance suggests a more restricted BIIS, which did not reach the shelf edge south of 54°23' N. The various slope styles observed on the Irish margin represent snapshots of the progressive stages of slope development for a glacially-influenced passive margin and may provide a predictive model for the evolution of other such margins.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)113-131
    Number of pages19
    JournalMarine Geology
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


    • British-Irish Ice Sheet
    • Canyons
    • Geomorphology
    • Marine geophysics
    • Rockall Trough
    • Slope


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