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Multi-proxy evidence for the impact of the Storegga Slide Tsunami on the early Holocene landscapes of the southern North Sea

By Vincent Gaffney, Simon Fitch, Martin Bates, Roselyn L. Ware, Tim Kinnaird, Benjamin Gearey, Tom Hill, Richard Telford, Cathy Batt, Ben Stern, John Whittaker, Sarah Davies, Mohammed Ben Sharada, Rosie Everett, Rebecca Cribdon, Logan Kistler, Sam Harris, Kevin Kearney, James Walker, Merle Muru, Derek Hamilton, Matthew Law, Richard Bates, Robin G Allaby

Posted 26 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.24.962605 (published DOI: 10.3390/geosciences10070270)

Doggerland was a land mass occupying an area currently covered by the North Sea until marine inundation took place during the mid-Holocene, ultimately separating the British land mass from the rest of Europe. The Storegga Slide, which triggered a tsunami reflected in sediment deposits in the Northern North Sea, North East coastlines of the British Isles and across the North Atlantic, was a major event during this transgressive phase. The spatial extent of the Storegga tsunami however remains unconfirmed because to date no direct evidence for the event has been recovered from the southern North Sea. We present evidence that Storegga associated deposits occur in the southern North Sea. Palaeo-river systems have been identified using seismic survey in the southwestern North Sea and sedimentary cores extracted to track the Mid Holocene inundation. At the head of one palaeo-river system near the Outer Dowsing Deep, the Southern River, we observed an abrupt and catastrophic inundation stratum. Based on lithostratigraphic, macro and microfossils and sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) evidence, supported by optical stimulation luminescence (OSL) and radiocarbon dating, we conclude these deposits were a result of the Storegga event. Seismic identification of this stratum to adjacent cores indicated diminished traces of the tsunami, largely removed by subsequent erosional processes. Our results demonstrate the catastrophic impact of Storegga within this area of the Southern North Sea, but indicate that these effects were temporary and likely localized and mitigated by the dense woodland and topography of the area. We conclude clear physical remnants of the wave are likely to be restricted to inland basins and incised river valley systems.

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