BRITICE - The British Ice Sheet

Map and GIS database of glacial landforms and features related to the last British Ice Sheet

Published map now available

See "Buying a printed map"

Most glaciated countries have for some time had some form of 'glacial map' recording landforms and evidence resulting from the activity of former ice sheets.
The Glacial Map of Canada is an exemplary example (Prest, V.K., Grant, D.R. and Rampton, V.N. 1968: Glacial map of Canada. Geological Survey of Canada. Map 1253A.)

For the first time we now have a compilation map for the last British Ice Sheet.

The methods of production, scope and caveats, and the printed 'Glacial Map' at a scale of 1:625 000 are reported in:

Clark, C.D., Evans, D.J.A., Khatwa, A., Bradwell, T., Jordan, C.J., Marsh, S.H., Mitchell, W.A. and Bateman, M.D. (2004). Map and GIS database of landforms and features related to the last British Ice Sheet. Boreas, 33(4), 359-375.
SHERPA Archive version (open access)

Please note that it is important to consult this source as it fully describes the nature of the data, and caveats which are essential for appropriate interpretation of the features.


The purpose of this web page is to support the above publication, and to permit academic users to have free access to the data used in compiling the 'Glacial Map'.

Example visualisations

BRITICE GISOn-screen view of some of the GIS layers: trimlines (nunataks) in red, moraine ridges in brown and limit of glacigenic deposits in dashed black, overlaid on a DEM of topography for part of Wester Ross, Scotland. This illustrates how it is possible to interrogate any individual feature and receive information on the published source from where it derives and a brief explanatory comment.

BRITICE DEMOblique view of the York-Escrick moraines (in brown) from the GIS overlaid on a DEM rendition of topography.

BRITICE GIS2Example of a small extract of the BRITICE GIS around the Solway Firth. Drumlins as black lines, meltwater channels in blue, moraines in brown, eskers in red, and erratic information in green.

What is included?

Emphasis is on information that constrains the last ice sheet. The following are included:

  • moraines
  • eskers
  • drumlins
  • meltwater channels
  • tunnel valleys
  • trimlines
  • limit of key glacigenic deposits
  • glaciolacustrine deposits
  • ice-dammed lakes
  • erratic dispersal patterns
  • shelf-edge fans
  • and the Loch Lomond Readvance limit of the main ice cap.

The GIS contains over 20,000 features split into thematic layers (as above). Individual features are attributed such that they can be traced back to their published sources. Given that the published sources of information that underpin this work were derived by a piecemeal effort over 150 years then our main caveat is of data consistency and reliability.

Why have we done this?

It is hoped that this compilation will:

  • Stimulate greater scrutiny of published data
  • Assist in palaeo-glaciological reconstructions of the ice sheet
  • Facilitate use of field-evidence in numerical ice sheet modelling
  • Help direct field-workers in their future investigations.

How was it compiled?

The compilation was produced by reviewing over 1,000 publications of the academic literature and British Geological Survey mapping. Relevant data were extracted from these and digitised and entered into a GIS. Note that the printed Glacial Map in Boreas is a generalisation (necessary for the reduced scale) of the data. For full-resolution data the GIS should be used.

Who has done the work?

Chris Clark (University of Sheffield) and Dave Evans (University of Glasgow) led the work assisted by Wishart Mitchell (University of Durham) and Mark Bateman (University of Sheffield). Important collaborators at the British Geological Survey (BGS) were Colm Jordan and Stuart Marsh, without whom the work would not have been possible. Anjana Khatwa and Tom Bradwell were employed to perform much of the data assessment and input. Neal Salomon and Lisa Collings are thanked for their work digitising some of the features, and Graham Allsopp is acknowledged for cartographic production of the map. Steve Wise is thanked for help regarding GIS implementation.

The BRITICE project was conceived and started in 1995, and rapidly grew in ambition from a simple A3 map to a fully-fledged GIS, bibliography and large map. Essential to the success of the project was the recognition of its value by Stuart Marsh and Colm Jordan and consequent timely support of funds from the BGS under their University Collaboration Scheme. The universities of Sheffield and Glasgow are also acknowledged for their financial support, as is the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, who greatly assisted in funding the production of the map.

Hey, you have missed an important feature. What about future editions?

The census date was 2002, and so anything published after this time is not included. It is inevitable that some of the information may be incorrect and require rejecting or revising. Additionally, we have likely missed some important aspects. If material is not included it might be because the information was not presented in map form, the mapping was of insufficient quality (with regard to geographic referencing), it did not fit our target layers, it conflicted with other, perhaps better mapped data on the same feature, or we simply did not find the relevant publication.

Our intention is that the GIS will be periodically updated to include newly published information, and for revisions where found necessary. We therefore appeal for extra information, criticisms or suggested amendments. Please direct these to Chris Clark ( who will ensure that they are considered for the next update of the GIS. Please send a copy of the relevant publication, highlighting the features for consideration. It should be noted that data is restricted to published information (but including PhD theses) which provides a crude quality-control and more importantly ensures that all data can be traced back to more detailed descriptions and observations.

When future updates are made (BRITICE 2nd edition), the results will be posted on this web page for downloading.

How can I get hold of the BRITICE data?

All data is available at no cost, providing that the BRITICE project is acknowledged and cited in any publications or presentations. Commercial use is not permitted.

Clark, C.D., Evans, D.J.A., Khatwa, A., Bradwell, T., Jordan, C.J., Marsh, S.H., Mitchell, W.A. and. Bateman, M.D. (2004). Map and GIS database of landforms and features related to the last British Ice Sheet. Boreas, 33(4), 359-375.
SHERPA Archive version (open access)

The printed map is available in the Boreas publication listed above, at a scale of 1:625,000 (ca. 2m x 1 m in size). The paper also contains important details regarding the scope and accuracy of the data layers and caveats required to make appropriate interpretations.

PDF files of the map are available from this page - see "Downloads" top-right. Feel free to print this out yourself (although rather large) or print extracts of it.

Bibliography of all academic publications and BGS maps from which data were extracted is also available as a Microsoft Word document - see "Downloads" top-right.

An extensive review paper, organised thematically and regionally, describing the nature and range of evidence utilised to compile the map is published:

Evans, D.J.A., Clark, C.D. and Mitchell, W.A. (2005). The last British Ice Sheet: A review of the evidence utilised in the compilation of the Glacial Map of Britain. Earth Science Reviews, 70, 253-312.
SHERPA Archive version (open access)

Buying a printed map

If you want your own copy of the printed maps, these are available as North and South Sheets (each 116 x 80 cm in size) either folded or as flat maps. There is a charge for this to offset our initial printing costs and post & package. Send your request to Chris Clark stating whether you want north or south, or both sheets, and whether flat or folded versions. Cheques to be made payable to "University of Sheffield"; £10 per map or £16 for north and south sheets, inclusive of post & packing.

Chris Clark, Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, SHEFFIELD, S10 2TN, United Kingdom

GIS data download

All data are stored as shapefiles, as fully-attributed polygons or arcs. These can be easily loaded into ArcGIS®, Arc View® and Erdas Imagine® and are importable into other GIS or CAD software packages. For ease of download all files are provided in one zipped folder  - see "Downloads" top-right.

Details about the data layers and file naming and geographic projection are stored in a accompanying 'readme.txt' file Consult the paper in Boreas for extra details.

To download all data layers and use an Arcview project file (*.apr) that allows a 'ready-made' and easy viewing of the database:
Download the zip file into a suitable folder name, say /britice. Unzip it in this folder such that all files remain in it. Start Arcview and 'open project' selecting the filename 'britice.apr'. The full database should appear with all categories labelled in the legend.

[Note that the data layer COAST is the property of Bartholomew's and cannot be used in publication or in commercial applications without their permission].

Important Links

The British Geological Survey can provide further information, maps for purchase and digital data for elements within the GIS that came from their mapping programmes.
The BGS has web pages devoted to digital data for purchase and sample datasets.