Longitudinal profile evolution of the Rhine–Meuse system during the last deglaciation: interplay of climate change and glacio-eustasy?


  • Törnqvist

    1. The Netherlands Centre for Geo-ecological Research (ICG), Faculty of Geographical Sciences, Utrecht University, PO Box 80115, NL-3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands
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Torbjörn E.Törnqvist
E-mail: t.tornqvist@geog.uu.nl


Fluvial longitudinal profiles reconstructed from abandoned floodplains contain significant evidence about the role of relative sea level vs. climatic and tectonic controls on depositional systems. Two Weichselian floodplain surfaces that occur as terraces updip of the hinge zone of the Rhine–Meuse system have recently been mapped beneath the Holocene Rhine–Meuse Delta (The Netherlands). Their vertical offset is several metres in the upstream area and decreases to only 0.4 m in the central part of the delta. The older and higher of the two floodplain surfaces is generally assumed to have been formed around the Last Glacial Maximum, whereas the younger dates to the Younger Dryas, following a phase of climatically induced fluvial incision during the Bølling-Allerød. The downstream convergence of these two floodplain surfaces may be related to the relative rise of sea level, forcing the Rhine–Meuse system to become graded to a higher base level during the Younger Dryas. The upper Weichselian Rhine–Meuse system then provides an example of a basin-marginal fluvial system that responds, in terms of its longitudinal profile, to the combined effects of upstream control (primarily climate change affecting water and sediment flux from the hinterland) and downstream control (glacio-eustatically driven relative sea-level change). This new evidence may therefore revitalize the presently unfashionable concept of relative sea-level control penetrating many hundreds of kilometres inland.