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A Pliocene age and origin for the strandflat of the Western Isles of Scotland: a speculative hypothesis

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle



Alastair G. Dawson, Sue Dawson, J. Andrew G. Cooper, Alastair Gemmell, C. Richard Bates

School/Research organisations


A series of very wide (up to 15 km) raised shore platforms in the Scottish Hebrides are identified and described for the first time and are considered part of a high rock platform shoreline in the western isles of Scotland described by W. B. Wright in his classic Geological Magazine paper a century ago as a 'preglacial' feature. Subsequent interpretations suggesting that the platforms were produced during the Pleistocene are rejected here in favour of a speculative hypothesis that the features are part of the well-known strandflat that is extensively developed across large areas of the northern hemisphere. It is argued that the Scottish strandflat developed during the Pliocene and was later subjected to extensive Pleistocene glacial erosion such that only a few areas of platform have survived in the Scottish Inner Hebrides (ice-proximal) while they are well-preserved in the Outer Hebrides (ice-distal). Support for a Pliocene hypothesis is provided by the marine oxygen isotope record for this time interval which points to prolonged periods of relative sea level stability as would be required for the production of such wide features. This hypothesis for the formation of a Scottish strandflat not only provides an elegant explanation for the origin and age of the raised rock platform fragments that occur throughout the western isles of Scotland, but it may also have relevance for other coastal areas of the northern hemisphere (e. g. Norway, Greenland, Alaska) where the strandflat is a well-developed feature.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-366
Number of pages7
JournalGeological Magazine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013

    Research areas

  • coastal rock platform, sea level change, glacio-isostasy, Pleistocene, Pliocene, eustasy, glaciations, NORWEGIAN STRANDFLAT, SHORE PLATFORMS, ROCK PLATFORM, QUATERNARY, HEBRIDES, NORWAY

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