Lithology and Subsidence in the North Sea
The North Sea sedimentary basin has developed on the northwestern margin of the European tectonic plate and contains an almost continuous record of epeirogenic marine and deltaic sedimentation from Carboniferous to Recent times. The subsidence required to accommodate the pile of sediment deposited, which in places exceeds 12 km, has been brought about at various times and in various places by differing geodynamical processes. As a result the types of sedimentary rocks deposited vary widely both in time and space, but the nature of the mechanism is reflected in the sedimentary type deposited. The following broad generalizations can be made. The late Carboniferous was a period of deltaic sedimentation during which eustatic changes in sea level or local variations in subsidence rates are reflected in the typical Coal Measures swamp deposits. Late Carboniferous -- early Permian times saw the silting up of this basin, and in an arid climate aeolian sands were deposited grading laterally to sabkha shales and evaporites. The Permian culminated in a series of widespread marine incursions during which repetitive evaporites were deposited. Triassic times were marked by a period of major rifting and the deposition of thick sequences of continental clastics in the north, while widespread marine sedimentation persisted in southern areas. Jurassic times saw the re-establishment of marine to deltaic deposition in a series of basins possibly controlled in their distribution by the Triassic fault systems. Late Jurassic deposits were laid down in a sea whose bathymetry reflected the structure of the underlying horsts and grabens inherited from Triassic times, and towards the close of the Jurassic the bottom waters at least of this sea become increasingly stagnant. Sands deposited during the late Jurassic were deposited as near-shore marine bars, beach sands, and proximal and distal submarine fans. Triassic to early Cretaceous deposition was concentrated in the areas now occupied by the main grabens of the North Sea, i.e. the Viking, Central and Moray -- Witch Ground grabens. Subsequent deposition in late Cretaceous to Tertiary times took place in a more widely subsiding area, resulting in progressive onlap onto the surrounding basin margins. Deposition within this broadly subsiding and relatively unfaulted basin is characterized by chalky limestones in southern areas, giving way laterally to shales and minor sands to the north. During early Tertiary times a large delta was formed in the area beneath the present Moray Firth, and from this delta a supply of sand was fed into submarine fans to the northeast and southeast of the delta front. Late Tertiary deposition is largely represented by a monotonous sequence of marine shales.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series A
- Pub Date:
- May 1982