Problems in the Quaternary stratigraphy of Northern Europe

Philip Gibbard1
1 Cambridge Quaternary, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Key Note 1.1 in Fortschritte der Quartärstratigraphie

17.09.2012, 09:10-09:40, H8

The Quaternary geology of northern Europe has been investigated for almost 200 years and as such the region can be considered the cradle of the subject.  After such a long period, it might seem surprising that there is still much new evidence regularly emerging and adding to our detailed understanding of this complex and fascinating period.  These new discoveries arise both from the application of new techniques, as much as from the use of traditional, tried-and-tested approaches, undertaken with increasing precision and interpreted in the light of expanding knowledge of natural processes in all aspects of the subject.  As a result of these investigations, and in particular the application of stratigraphical methods, today we have an extraordinarily good vision of the evolution of our continent through the last 2.5 million years.  Yet in spite of the advances both in approach and techniques several significant problems remain for us as stratigraphers to solve.  In northern Europe, these include: 

  1. the nature of the events during the early Pleistocene – when did glaciation begin and where?
  2. the precise detail of the glacial/interglacial evolution of the region during the early Middle Pleistocene (the period of the ‘middle Pleistocene transition’) – the number of glacial or interglacial events and their recognition.
  3. the ‘Saalian Stage complex’ – the detail of the interval between the Holsteinian and Eemian stages and equivalents.
  4. the timing of glacial maxima during the Weichselian and equivalents.
  5. linkage of Alpine and northern glaciations and the correlation with the sequences of the non-glaciated areas.
  6. correlation of the terrestrial and deep-sea sequences.


Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, these topics illustrate our need to continue to investigate our region and to attempt to clarify events within these periods.  The only way that this can be achieved is through detailed, systematic field investigation, supported by rigorous laboratory studies, on the widest possible front.  This requires a concerted, internationally co-ordinated programme in which the role of DEUQUA and sister organisations in neighbouring countries is central.  In this way our understanding of our continent’s Quaternary history will be enhanced and continue to be strengthened.

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Letzte Änderung 19.07.2012