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Late Palaeozoic to Early Cenozoic geological evolution of the northwestern German North Sea (Entenschnabel): New results and insights

  • Jashar Arfai (a1), Fabian Jähne (a1), Rüdiger Lutz (a1), Dieter Franke (a1), Christoph Gaedicke (a1) and Jonas Kley (a2)...

The results of a detailed seismic mapping campaign of 13 horizons in the northwestern German North Sea, covering Late Permian to Palaeogene sedimentary successions, are presented. Based on the interpretation of four 3D and two 2D seismic surveys, thickness and depth maps of prominent stratigraphic units were constructed. These maps provide an overview of key structural elements, the sedimentation and erosion, and give insights into the evolution of the German Central Graben. The base of the Zechstein Group reaches a maximum depth of 7800 m within the German Central Graben. Lateral thickness variations in the Zechstein reflect the extensive mobilisation of Zechstein salt. Complex rift-related structures, with the Central Graben as the main structural element, were found not later than the Early Triassic. Up to 3000-m thick Triassic sediments are preserved in the eastern German Central Graben of which 1800 m consist of Keuper sediments. The Lower Buntsandstein unit shows increasing thicknesses towards the southeastern study area, likely related to distinct lateral subsidence. As a consequence of uplift of the North Sea Dome, Middle Jurassic sediments were eroded in large parts of the northwestern German North Sea and are only preserved in the German Central Graben. The NNW–SSE oriented John Basin is another important structural element, which shows maximum subsidence during the Late Jurassic. In most parts of the study area Lower Cretaceous sediments are absent due to either erosion or non-deposition. Lower Cretaceous deposits are preserved in the Outer Rough Basin in the northwest and within the German Central Graben. Upper Cretaceous sediments are found at depths between 1500 and 3600 m, reaching a maximum thickness of approximately 1600 m on the Schillgrund High. Contraction and inversion of pre-existing Mesozoic faults during the Late Cretaceous is distinct at the Schillgrund Fault, i.e. the eastern border fault of the Central Graben. The Palaeogene is predominantly a period of strong basin subsidence. Within 37 Myrs, up to 1400 m of Palaeogene sediments were deposited in the northwesternmost part of the study area. Detailed mapping of salt structures enables a reconstruction of halokinetic movements over time and a deciphering of the influence of the Zechstein salt on the sedimentary evolution during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic. Increasing sediment thicknesses in rim-synclines indicate that most of the salt structures in the German Central Graben had their main growth phase during the Late Jurassic.

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