Estimating Episodic Permafrost Development in Northern Germany during the Pleistocene

  1. Michael J. Hambrey4,
  2. Poul Christoffersen4,5,
  3. Neil F. Glasser4 and
  4. Bryn Hubbard4
  1. Georg Delisle1,
  2. Stefan Grassmann1,
  3. Bernhard Cramer1,
  4. Jürgen Messner2 and
  5. Jutta Winsemann3

Published Online: 24 MAR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444304435.ch8

Glacial Sedimentary Processes and Products

Glacial Sedimentary Processes and Products

How to Cite

Delisle, G., Grassmann, S., Cramer, B., Messner, J. and Winsemann, J. (2007) Estimating Episodic Permafrost Development in Northern Germany during the Pleistocene, in Glacial Sedimentary Processes and Products (eds M. J. Hambrey, P. Christoffersen, N. F. Glasser and B. Hubbard), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444304435.ch8

Editor Information

  1. 4

    Centre for Glaciology, Institute of Geography & Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Wales, Ceredigion SY23 3DB, UK

  2. 5

    Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Lensfield Road, Cambridge, CB2 1ER, UK

Author Information

  1. 1

    Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR), Stilleweg 2, 30655 Hannover, Germany

  2. 2

    Landesamt für Bergbau, Energie und Geologie (LBEG), Stilleweg 2, 30655 Hannover, Germany

  3. 3

    Institut für Geologies, Leibniz Universität, Hannover, Callinstraße 30, 30167 Hannover, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 24 MAR 2009
  2. Published Print: 14 DEC 2007

Book Series:

  1. Special Publication Number 39 of the International Association of Sedimentologists

Book Series Editors:

  1. Isabel Montanez

Series Editor Information

  1. University of California, Davis, USA

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405183000

Online ISBN: 9781444304435



  • estimating episodic permafrost development in northern Germany during Pleistocene;
  • controlling parameters of permafrost development;
  • presence of permafrost in northern Germany during glacial stages of Pleistocene;
  • reconstruction of permafrost in northern Germany;
  • modelling of episodic permafrost along 75 km long E-W profile across shelf region;
  • integration of baseline data of glacial effects into current 2D petroleum system model


Climate variations in central Europe during the Weichselian can be retraced with reasonably good confidence on the basis of proxy data such as botanical macrofossils and pollen content in Weichselian sediments, for which good age control is available. The availability of proxy data from pre-Eemian subaerial deposits tends to be too erratic in space and time to enable us to reconstruct from them, with confidence, a continuous record of northern Germany's regional climate for the whole Pleistocene, in particular prior to the times of major glacial advances from the north. The likely duration and maximum depth of the occurrence of permafrost in northern Germany throughout the Pleistocene, however, can be estimated. This assumes that the Pleistocene climate trend archived in oxygen isotope records from marine sites (such as e.g. ODP-sites 659 and 677) can be considered in broad terms to reflect the global climatic variations. Here we discuss the approach of using a previously presented reconstruction of the mean annual ground temperatures (MAGT) of the last 120 ky for northern Germany as a calibration tool to reconstruct, from marine proxy data, MAGT-estimates for northern Germany during the Pleistocene. These MAGT-data are the basis of calculations to estimate permafrost depth fluctuations in northern Germany. Calculations for the growth and decay of permafrost are presented for a vertical sediment column and a 75 km long profile modelled after a seismic line that crosses in an east-west direction several salt domes in the subsurface of the German North Sea sector. The latter model intends to demonstrate the interplay between variations in terrestrial heat flow caused by the presence of salt structures and changing climatic conditions over time on the development and decay of permafrost. Depending on the applied climate curve, the maximum vertical extent of permafrost during the Pleistocene is estimated to be c. 130 m (MAGTODP677-reconstruction) or 170 m (MAGTODP659-reconstruction). We favour the MAGTODP659-reconstruction, since its results correlate well with available geological evidence for cold stages with indications of permafrost development during the Pleistocene.