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Looking at the topographical map of the two main islands of Britain--England to the east and Ireland to the west--is looking at two and a half million years of ice sculpting, grinding and melting on a repeating cycle. As proof, here is a map of the British Isles as recently as 18,000 years ago:

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In this alternate Earth, the Pleistocene ice ages had two easy differences:

  1. The ice made its first advance five, not two-and-a-half, million years ago
  2. More relevant to the question at hand, neither isle had a single square inch of land touched by ice (except, maybe, the Shetland Islands, as they are close enough to the Arctic Circle to be buried in ice during a glaciation.)

How different would the topographies of England and Ireland be if ice never touched them?

  • $\begingroup$ So someone is going to close this without an answer or an explanation? $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Oct 27 '16 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ It's "The British Isles", not "Britain"; the other place with "Britain" in its name is part of France, and Ireland has never been part of "Britain". The biggest island is "Great Britain", not "England". Calling it England is roughly equivalent to calling North America "Canada", in that it shows ignorance and will insult many of the inhabitants. England is a country that covers a large part of Great Britain, but Scotland and Wales are no more part of England than Texas is part of Mexico. Calling a Scot or Welshman "English" is about as likely to cause violence as calling a Texan a Mexican. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Oct 27 '16 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ Few boulders strewn around. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Oct 27 '16 at 17:45

I know that the majority of the hills and valleys in Scotland, north England and Wales were formed by glaciation, and the rivers that then followed those paths. Based on that I would make the huuuge assumption that without ice, those "indents" into what was once the surface level of the ground would never have been made. This would give large and high plateau areas instead.

Another interesting thing to note is that since the ice of the last ice age disappeared from Great Britain, it's northern end has been "bouncing back" due to the absence of the weight of the ice. That is, the northern end of the island is gaining altitude, whilst the southern end is effectively sinking into the sea in balance. Without the ice, this also would not be happening.

Without the ice, the British Isles would also most likely still be joined together (one British Isle, singular), and probably also still joined to Europe as your lovely diagram states. This would likely have rather huge effects on the biodiversity of the Isles, the path human development and their cultures took, and all historical events that have resulted since human settlement.

Edit: To clarify, the separation of the British Isles from mainland Europe is thought to have occurred due to "two catastrophic glacial lake outburst floods" caused by the breaching of an extremely large lake under what is now the North Sea. This is not ice directly on the British Isles, but arguably the removal of that ice contributed to the breaching of the lake.

Pretty big hypothetical you got there.

  • $\begingroup$ I thought the English Channel landbridge was the result of the Pleistocene marine regression. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Oct 27 '16 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ According to wiki the Channel was created by "two catastrophic glacial lake outburst floods caused by the breaching of the Weald–Artois anticline, a ridge that held back a large proglacial lake in the Doggerland region, now submerged under the North Sea". So not ice on the British Isles directly. I'll update my answer to clarify. $\endgroup$ – barney Oct 27 '16 at 18:27

The question isn't really plausible as a science-based question without some reason why ice never reached the British Isles.

The general answer to your question is that the topography would be spikier, not having been worn down so much by glaciers, but I doubt anyone can provide any exact detail.

  • $\begingroup$ Why was the terrain spiky to begin with? $\endgroup$ – barney Oct 27 '16 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ Freshly made mountains are always fairly spiky, no matter if they were made by volcanoes or Orogeny. See the Himalayas for an example, since they are still being made today. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Oct 27 '16 at 18:02

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