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Keywords:

  • micromorphology;
  • microfabric;
  • Last Glacial Maximum;
  • North Sea

Abstract

Despite a long history of investigation, critical issues regarding the last glacial cycle in northwest Europe remain unresolved. One of these refers to the extent, timing and dynamics of Late Devensian/Weichselian glaciation of the North Sea Basin, and whether the British and Scandinavian ice sheets were confluent at any time during this period. This has been the result of the lack of the detailed sedimentological data required to reconstruct processes and environment of sediments recovered through coring. This study presents the results of seismic, sedimentological and micromorphological evidence used to reconstruct the depositional processes of regionally extensive seismic units across the North Sea Basin. Thin section micromorphology is used here to provide an effective means of discriminating between subglacial and glacimarine sediments from cored samples and deriving process-based interpretations from sediment cores. On the basis of micromorphology, critical formations from the basin have been reinterpreted, with consequent stratigraphic implications. Within the current stratigraphic understanding of the North Sea Basin, a complex reconstruction is suggested, with a minimum of three major glacial episodes inferred. On at least two occasions during the Weichselian/Devensian, the British and Scandinavian ice sheets were confluent in the central North Sea. Whilst micromorphology can provide much greater confidence in the interpretation of Late Quaternary offshore stratigraphic sequences, it is noted that a much better geochronology is required to resolve key stratigraphic issues between the onshore and offshore stratigraphic records. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.