Helping to better understand our planet and its climate is vitally important as we continue to try to manage its resources and the North West of Scotland provides an accessible array of geological data which is of value to the international scientific community.
The owners of Dundonnell and Eilean Darrach Estates, when contacted by Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), were very keen to ensure full access was offered to the University of Maine carry out their research.
Donald Rice for the Estates said "We were delighted to assist Gordon Bromley and Kurt Rademaker in their research at Dundonnell and very grateful for Scottish Land and Estates for putting them in touch with us. We are thrilled that the Dundonnell area is of such value for studying climate change of the past and are excited to know what may emerge from their work. We only hope that when they return to continue their research they get easier conditions to work in than the driving wind, sleet and snow they endured in February."
As our planet warms in response to greenhouse gas emissions, understanding the phenomenon of abrupt climate change is a matter of increasing urgency for scientists and society alike. Forget gradual fluctuations that are barely perceptible on human timescales: abrupt climate change can plunge temperate regions like Scotland into glacial cold or usher in a millennium of drought in only a handful of years, events that in today's globalised and environmentally stressed world would cause chaos. It is not surprising therefore, that determining the causes of abrupt change is one of the highest priorities of climate scientists worldwide.
As part of this effort, scientists from the University of Maine in the United States are exploring the rich record of past climate variability preserved in some of Scotland's wildest and most spectacular landscapes. In March of 2015, geologists Gordon Bromley and Kurt Rademaker spent an exceedingly wet and windy week on An Teallach, a statuesque mountain located on the Estates, mapping and sampling landforms deposited by Scotland's last glaciers. Fragments of rock collected from glacial boulders – or erratics – hold the key to establishing exactly when this glacial pulse occurred, through a revolutionary new technique called cosmogenic surface-exposure dating.
Ultimately, this data will help us determine when, why and how rapid swings in climate occur, and what their impact is on Scotland's environment.
In pursuing this research, Bromley and Rademaker selected the An Teallach area as the ideal site because of the unequalled preservation of relict glacial landforms there. Tucked up in the high corries of these sandstone peaks is some of the most striking evidence of glaciation in the country, with sharp-crested moraine ridges and delicately perched erratics a stark reminder of Scotland's glacial heritage.
However, the feasibility of this science relies in large part on the cooperation of local landowners, and it is here that the Maine geologists are benefiting from the enthusiastic support of the Estates , SL&E and Scottish Natural Heritage.