SHED Earth

Welcome to SHED Earth. SHED refers to Schmidt hammer exposure dating: a technique that provides a cost-effective solution for dating the exposure of granite surfaces. This can be used to constrain the timing of past events, which permits a better understanding of the links between climate and landscape evolution.

The approach is based upon a study by Tomkins et al. (2016)1, in which a statistically significant relationship was observed between the exposure ages (derived from terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide dating), and Schmidt hammer rebound values (R-values) of 25 granitic surfaces from NW England and Scotland. This has recently been updated with 40 additional exposure ages from across Scotland and Ireland2. Calibration samples now span the last ~24 thousand years and encompass the entire post-Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) history of the British-Irish Ice Sheet. In addition, a new curve has recently been made available for the Pyrenees18, based on 54 TCN dated surfaces from across the mountain range. These new data appear consistent with previous research1 and indicate that this method can be applied successfully in contrasting climatic regimes.

While further work is required to test these calibration curves in a range of landscapes 21, this approach is cost- and time-efficient and is of comparable accuracy to ages derived from terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide dating23, making it useful for researchers and students alike. In turn, we hope that SHED will be of value to the Quaternary community, in that it can complement existing TCN studies in poorly dated regions and can be applied widely to undated glacial landforms.

Calibration Curve

The calibration curve used in SHED calculations is region-specific. It is therefore important that you select the curve that is suitable for the location in which your research is taking place, so that the appropriate curve may be selected. If you would like to submit an additional curve to SHED-Earth, in order to allow you to date samples from other regions of the world, please .

regression chart

This is the latest calibration curve for the British Isles and is based on 65 TCN dated surfaces from Scotland, NW England and Ireland. These exposure ages are calculated using the time-dependent Lm scaling scheme3,4, the Loch Lomond production rate 20 and assuming 0 mm ka-1 erosion. For full details, see Tomkins et al. (2018)2. It is anticipated that as new calibration curves are constructed in similar well-dated regions, they will be made available for use on this site.

Production Rate

The largest uncertainty involved in calculating TCN exposure ages is the choice of production rate. As the SHED calibration is based on TCN exposure ages, production rate controls the slope of the calibration curve and in turn, influences SH exposure age estimates. As such, we provide the following production rates for calculating SH exposure ages.

For both calibration curves, the underlying exposure age data is calculated using the globally-calibrated 10Be production rate of Borchers et al. (2016)9, the online calculators formerly known as the CRONUS-Earth online calculators, as described by Balco et al. (2008)24, the time-dependent Lm scaling scheme3,4 and assuming 0 mm ka-1 erosion. While this is the default setting ("Balco v3"), we also include ages calculated using the CRONUS Earth Web Calculator (v2), as described by Marrero et al. (2016)25.

To supplement these approaches, we also provide a range of suitable locally-calibrated 10Be production rates from the British Isles. These include the Loch Lomond production rate (LLPR; 3.99 ± 0.06 atoms g-1 a-1; Fabel et al., 2012) 20 which is based on 10Be concentrations from erratic boulders on the terminal moraine of the Younger Dryas Loch Lomond glacier advance, the timing of which is independently constrained by 14C ages derived from a varve chronology (MacLeod et al., 2011)8. This calibration dataset is one of the most widely used local production rates in the British Isles.

In addition, we include the Rannoch Moor production rate(RM-PR; 3.95 ± 0.11 atoms g-1 a-1; Putnam et al., 20195), which is based on 10Be concentrations from boulders deposited on a glacial moraine belt on Rannoch Moor, central Scottish Highlands, the timing of which is independently constrained by proximal 14C ages (Bromley et al., 201419) and 14C ages from outlet glaciers of the West Highland ice field. However, it should be noted that the validity of this production rate has recently been questioned22.

Finally, we provide the Glen Roy production rate (GRPR; 4.31 ± 0.21 atoms g-1 a-1; Small and Fabel, 20157) which is derived from assumed ages of tephra within a floating varve chronology (MacLeod et al., 20158). Collectively, the LLPR and GRPR provide upper and lower limits on the range of local production rates from the British Isles.

Data Input

R Values

Users should input raw R-value data in the format displayed below. Inputs include sample IDs and locations (latitude/longitude) which are stored in a database for monitoring of site usage. User data (R-values and Schmidt Hammer exposure ages) are not recorded. While we encourage users to record 30 R-values per surface to ensure statistically significant results, the tool will also operate on smaller sample sizes. This tool performs instrument and age calibration (see below) and returns calibrated R-values and Schmidt Hammer exposure ages with 1σ uncertainties for each sampled surface. Data should be pasted into the box below in tab-delimited format, which is most easily achieved by copying it directly out of a spreadsheet (download example here). The column order should be name latitude longitude followed by the R-values (recommended 30) for that surface (click the Load Demo Values button at the bottom of this form for an example).

Instrument Calibration Values

In order to ensure that the Schmidt hammer is functioning correctly and yielding the same R-value on an identical rock surface, even after hundreds or thousands of impacts10, users should test their Schmidt Hammer using a suitable surface before and after sampling.

In order to test Schmidt hammer functionality, a concrete test anvil (example here) is typically used to assess deviation from a standard value (N-type SH = 81 ± 2). This is a good approach to test functionality because operator variance is minimal (e.g. identical contact point and angle of operation) and because the anvils construction minimises wear following repeated impacts. In turn, the anvil typically returns consistent readings at the upper end of the functional range of the Schmidt hammer (~81 R-value). However, if functionality is compromised (i.e. measured R-value < standard R-value), then it is necessary to calibrate R-values measured in the field.

Previous studies have advocated the use of the concrete test anvil10,11. However, an implicit assumption in the test anvil calibration procedure is that the difference (%) between the specified anvil standard and the recorded average is consistent throughout the operational range of the Schmidt Hammer i.e. a 20% R-value difference between two Schmidt hammers as recorded using the test anvil should also be replicated on a range of natural rock surfaces. However, this is not supported by evidence2 as the difference between Schmidt hammers as recorded using the test anvil is not maintained throughout the tools’ operational range but decreases significantly as the surface R-value decreases. As a result, this method over-estimates R-values for surfaces typically tested by Quaternary researchers2.

For very hard rock surfaces (R-values: ≥ 70), the test anvil method may be more effective, as variation between Schmidt hammers as recorded on the anvil is probably representative of variability on sampled rock surfaces. However, for the vast majority of rock surfaces tested by Quaternary researchers (R-values: ≤ 60), the anvil method will significantly overestimate R-values2. Thus, users should perform instrument calibration using a calibration surface which is within the range of their sample data and that is of sufficient size12, that is free of surface discontinuities13 and lichen14 and that is easily accessible. Users should input pre- and post-calibration values for their chosen surface and input their raw R-value data in chronological order (related to the time of sampling). R-values will be corrected assuming linear R-value drift1 based on the variance between pre- and post-calibration values and the number of individual R-values. This procedure is most effective when periods between calibration tests are short15.

Age Calibration Value

The goal of SHED-Earth is to encourage researchers and students to test and use our calibration curve on undated landforms and compare results with independent dating methods (TCN, 14C, OSL), in order to evaluate its effectiveness. As such, the standardisation of different Schmidt Hammers15 and different user strategies16 to a verifiable standard (e.g. University of Manchester calibration boulder) is necessary to minimise potential errors in SHED age estimates.

For the British Isles SHED curve, users should test their Schmidt Hammer using the University of Manchester calibration boulder (R-Value = 48.08 ± 0.82)17 and input their mean R-Value here. For the Pyrenees SHED curve, users should test their Schmidt Hammer using one of the three calibration surfaces provided (R-Values: Maladeta = 52.60 ± 0.74; Bassies = 44.14 ± 0.60; and Carlit = 48.67 ± 0.65) and input their mean R-Value here. A correction factor (%) is applied to all user R-values when the input value is less than the reference value - uncertainty, or more than the reference value + uncertainty..

Users who have not completed age calibration using one of these age calibration surfaces should use the default value. As such, no correction for variance between different Schmidt Hammers or between users will be made. This may be appropriate if users have calibrated their Schmidt Hammer using one of the boulder or bedrock surfaces reported in previous publications1,2, although we advocate caution with this approach17. Although variance between Schmidt Hammers is usually small for surfaces with R-values of ≤ 60, variance can exceed ~10% for older Schmidt Hammers and should be accounted for2. Users can contact at the University of Manchester for advice on age calibration.

Photograph of boulder location
Calibration Boulder NameCalibration Curve (Location)R-ValueUncertaintyLocation (Lon,Lat)
University of ManchesterBritish Isles48.08±0.82-2.23484069, 53.46667120
MaladetaPyrenees52.60±0.740.64960200, 42.67894000
BassiesPyrenees44.14±0.601.46471300, 42.74457700
CarlitPyrenees48.67±0.652.05129200, 42.51446200

Demo Data

If you would like to have a go with the website but do not have data to hand, simply click here for to load some demo data into the above form:


Referencing this site

If you use this site in academic works, please reference it accordingly:

Source Code

The source code for this website is available on GitHub.

  1. McCarroll, D. (1987). The Schmidt hammer in geomorphology: five sources of instrument error. Br. Geomorphol. Res. Group Tech. Bull., 36, 16–27.