The glacial history of the Cairngorms is poorly known. Erosion has tended to remove the evidence of events before the last ice sheet. Recent results from cosmogenic exposure events indicate at least 3 separate phases of glacial erosion on the Cairngorm plateau (Phillips et al., 2006). The complex glacial stratigraphy of the Buchan lowlands also suggest multiple phases of ice cover in the mountain source areas.

This lack of knowledge of glacial history is common to most formerly glaciated areas of the Northern Hemisphere. For many years now workers have used global proxies of climate to infer former temperatures on adjacent land areas. Chief amongst these proxies are isotope records from the deep oceans and from Greenland ice cores. Both records reveal rapid and marked shifts in temperatures during the Pleistocene.

In order to make make simple estimates of the duration of ice cover in the Cairngorms (Phillips et al., 2005) used both the Greenland ice core records for the last 250 ka and the deep ocean record going back to 3 Ma. They estimate that glacierisation will be underway whenever d18O values  fall below 37.0 . On this basis prolonged ice cover is predicted for the Cairngorms over the last 250 ka and earlier.

Ice cover models