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Cosmogenic Cl-36 dating of postglacial landsliding at The Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Ballantyne, Colin K., Stone, John O., Fifield, L. Keith
TheHolocene 1998 v.8 no.3 pp. 347-351
geophysics, glaciation, highlands, landslides, mountains, radiocarbon dating, rockfalls, sand, Scotland
Major postglacial rock slope failures are a common feature of the Scottish Highlands and other mountainous areas that were deglaciated at the end of the Pleistocene, but evaluation of the causes and triggers of failure has been hindered by a lack of reliable dating evidence. We report the result of a pilot study designed to establish the absolute age of a large postglacial rotational rockslide at The Storr on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, using ³⁶Cl surface exposure dating. Exposure ages of 6.3 ± 0.7 cal. ka BP and 6.6 ± 0.8 cal. ka BP were obtained for rock samples from two separate landslide blocks, giving an overall age estimate of 6.5 ± 0.5 cal. ka BP for rock slope failure at this site. This date is consistent with AMS radiocarbon dating of windblown sand derived from the failure scarp, and with previous inferences (based on relative dating evidence) concerning an early-Holocene age for most rock slope failures in the Scottish Highlands. The long time lag (. 7 ka) between deglaciation and failure suggests that progressive joint extension and shearing of rock bridges and asperities were of critical importance in conditioning failure, though a seismic trigger cannot be ruled out. The methodology of surface exposure dating in this context is described and its future potential assessed.