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Salt-induced crestal faults control the formation of Quaternary tunnel valleys in the southern North Sea

: Wenau, Stefan; Alves, Tiago M.

Volltext ()

Boreas 49 (2020), Nr.4, S.799-812
ISSN: 0300-9483
ISSN: 1502-3885
Bundesministerium fur Wirtschaft und Energie BMWi (Deutschland)
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer IWES ()

Tunnel valleys are major features of glaciated margins and they enable meltwater expulsion from underneath a thick ice cover. Their formation is related to the erosion of subglacial sediments by overpressured meltwater and direct glacial erosion. Yet, the impact of pre‐existing structures on their formation and morphology remains poorly known. High‐quality 3D seismic data allowed the mapping of a large tunnel valley that eroded underlying preglacial delta deposits in the southern North Sea. The valley follows the N–S strike of crestal faults related to a Zechstein salt wall. A change in downstream tunnel valley orientation towards the SE accompanies a change in the strike direction of salt‐induced faults. Fault offsets indicate important activity of crestal faults during the deposition of preglacial deltaic sediments. We propose that crestal faults facilitated tunnel valley erosion by acting as high‐permeability pathways and allowing subglacial meltwater to reach low‐permeability sediments in the underlying Neogene deltaic sequences, ultimately resulting in meltwater overpressure build‐up and tunnel valley excavation. Active faults probably also weakened the near‐surface sediment to allow a more efficient erosion of the glacial substrate. This control of substrate structures on tunnel valley morphology is considered as a primary factor in subglacial drainage pattern development in the study area.