Geologists unveil how Britain first separated from Europe – and it was catastrophic

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tags: britain, geology, English Channel



As Brexit looms, Earth scientists have uncovered evidence of Britain’s original split from mainland Europe. Almost half a million years ago, according to new data, water suddenly started cascading over the narrow strip of land that joined England and France – putting pressure on a chalk bridge.

Researchers show that, as a result, this ridge – a natural dam that separated the North Sea from the English Channel – was catastrophically ruptured hundreds of thousands of years later in a two-stage process, ultimately setting Britain’s insular environment in stone. Their results are reported in Nature Communications.

So where did all the water that caused this geological disaster come from? The scientists, from UK, Belgium and France, base their conclusions on a line of deep plunge pools (basins excavated by intense waterfalls) and a network of channels cut in the sea floor south-west of the ridge line. They deduce that these were first formed some 450,000 years ago as a lake of glacial melt water to the north-east in the North Sea basin (the depression where the north sea sits today, some of which was dry land back then) spilled over into what is today the English Channel.




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