Quaternary geology of the German North Sea and Western Irish Sea Mud Belt: revised stratigraphies, geotechnical properties, sedimentology and anthropogenic impacts
Coughlan, Mark J. C.
University College Cork
The climatic development of the Mid to Late Quaternary (last 400,000 years) is characterised by fluctuation between glacial and interglacial periods leading to the present interglacial, the Holocene. In comparison to preceding periods it was believed the Holocene represented a time of relative climatic stability. However, recent work has shown that the Holocene can be divided into cooler periods such as the Little Ice Age alternating with time intervals where climatic conditions ameliorated i.e. Medieval Warm Period, Holocene Thermal Optimum and the present Modern Optimum. In addition, the Holocene is recognised as a period with increasing anthropogenic influence on the environment. Onshore records recording glacial/interglacial cycles as well as anthropogenic effects are limited. However, sites of sediment accumulation on the shallow continental shelf offer the potential to reconstruct these events. Such sites include tunnel valleys and low energy, depositional settings. In this study we interrogated the sediment stratigraphy at such sites in the North Sea and Irish Sea using traditional techniques, as well as novel applications of geotechnical data, to reconstruct the palaeoenvironmental record. Within the German North Sea sector a combination of core, seismic and in-situ Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) data was used to identify sedimentary units, place them within a morphological context, relate them to glacial or interglacial periods stratigraphically, and correlate them across the German North Sea. Subsequently, we were able to revise the Mid to Late Quaternary stratigraphy for the North Sea using this new and novel data. Similarly, Holocene environmental changes were investigated within the Irish Sea at a depositional site with active anthropogenic influence. The methods used included analyses on grain-size distribution, foraminifera, gamma spectrometry, AMS 14C and physical core logging. The investigation revealed a strong fluctuating climatic signal early in the areas history before anthropogenic influence affects the record through trawling.
Irish Sea , Holocene , Geotechnics , Geophysics , Sedimentology , Anthropocene , Quaternary geology , Marine geology
Coughlan, M. J. C. 2015. Quaternary geology of the German North Sea and Western Irish Sea Mud Belt: revised stratigraphies, geotechnical properties, sedimentology and anthropogenic impacts. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.