PUB POSER: WHY DOESN'T BRITAIN HAVE GLACIERS?

THEY ARE STILL DOING THEIR VALLEY-SCULPTING IN NORWAY, ICELAND, CANADA, THE ALPS AND ELSEWHERE - BUT WHY HAVE BRITAIN'S GLACIERS GONE?

The British mountains are glaciated enviroments. They just don't have glaciers any more. If they were to return, though, it would be here in Scotland's Cairngorms.
Photograph Tom Bailey / Trail Magazine

THE simple answer is that Britain is not currently cold enough to sustain large masses of ice throughout the year. Even in the high Scottish mountains, where snow patches linger late into the summer, the temperatures aren’t low enough. The last UK glaciers are thought to have melted following the last ice age – around 11,500 years ago – although scientists recently discovered evidence of there having been a small glacier in the Cairngorms as recently as the 1700s, during what was known as the ‘Little Ice Age’.

Today, glaciers and ice sheets are found at extreme latitudes like the North and South Poles, and at high altitudes such as in the Himalayas and the Alps. It’s been calculated that a year-round temperature drop of as little as 2 deg C (or a rise in elevation of 100m or so) in the highest points of the Cairngorms could cause year-round snow to deepen in the sheltered corries and the beginnings of glaciation could begin again; although with the current trend towards warmer temperatures, this is unlikely to happen.