Patterns of Holocene relative sea level change in the North of Britain and Ireland

David Smith, N. Hunt, Callum Firth, P.T. Fretwell, M. Harman, J.T. Jordan, J. Murdy, J.D. Orford, Niall Burnside

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Temporal and spatial patterns of relative sea level (RSL) change in the North of Britain and Ireland during the Holocene are examined. Four episodes, each defined by marked changes in the RSL trend, are identified. Each episode is marked by a rise to a culminating shoreline followed by a fall. Episode HRSL-1 dates from the Younger Dryas to early in the Holocene; HRSL-2 to HRSL-4 occurred later in the Holocene. There is extensive evidence for each episode, and on this basis the spatial distribution of the altitude data for three culminating shorelines and a shoreline formed at the time of the Holocene Storegga Slide tsunami (ca8110±100cal.BP) is analysed. Ordinary Kriging is used to determine the general pattern, following which Gaussian Trend Surface Analysis is employed. Recognising that empirical measurements of RSL change can be unevenly distributed spatially, a new approach is introduced which enables the developing pattern to be identified. The patterns for the most widely occurring shorelines were analysed and found to be similar and common centre and axis models were developed for all shorelines. The analyses described provide models of the spatial pattern of Holocene RSL change in the area between ca8100cal.BP and ca1000cal.BP based on 2262 high resolution shoreline altitude measurements. These models fit the data closely, no shoreline altitude measurement lying more than−1.70m or+1.82m from the predicted value. The models disclose a similar pattern to a recently published Glacial Isostatic Adjustment model for present RSL change across the area, indicating that the overall spatial pattern of RSL change may not have varied greatly during the last ca8000 years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-76
Number of pages19
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2012


  • Shoreline
  • Relative sea level
  • Glacio-isostasy
  • Gaussian Trend Surface Analysis


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