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Doggerland is in the news again

3 May 2014

At www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27224243 … it seems some fresh evidence has emerged on Doggerland, concerning its demise. A huge tsunami wave 8200 years ago generated by a catastrophic underwater collapse of the Storegga Shelf (off the coast of Norway) caused problems by overwhelming Mesolithic settlements along the eastern coast of Scotland and northern England, as well as anyone living in Doggerland itself. However, this giant wave is then said to have gone on to drown a large part of the North Sea basin – which has remained submerged ever since. In fact, it is buried beneath a considerable amount of sea water – and yet sea level rise levelled out after 8200 years ago. In that sense, this story has never rang true – what else was going on? What caused the collapse of the Storegga Shelf? Why was there such an acceleration in sea level rise around 8200 years ago?

Paul Dunbavin, (SIS stocks two of his books – see the Book Service page), suggested a shift in the axis of rotation could have caused a rapid burst of sea level change – the oceans adjusting themselves to a new geoid. In that sense, it is not necessary to think in terms of a tsunami wave (unless there is irrefutable evidence in the field) as the tide would have come in – and continued to come in until the new sea levels had been established, drowning not only the continental shelf around NW Europe but the continent of Sundaland in SE Asia (now reduced to the islands of Indonesia). The Storegga Shelf can hardly have caused the latter – or the many other changes in sea level in other parts of the world at the same point in time. However, Dunbavin did not produce a mechanism to explain how a change in the axis of rotation might have occurred. He merely noted it seemed an explanation to account for the data and evidence.

In the new research, by a team from Imperial College in London (paper published in Ocean Modelling and due to be presented at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly meeting in Vienna this week, is based around modelling what might have happened if the Storegga Shelf had collapsed and generated a tidal wave. Some of the numbers in the BBC piece are puzzling as 20,000 years ago the Earth was deep into the Late Glacial Maximum – and sea levels could not have been declining is their origin is in ice melt. In spite of that it is a fair report – but it is somewhat strange for uniformitarians to cite a catastrophe in order to explain away the sea level rise in a uniformitarian manner. It does of course revert to populism – as tsunamis have been in the news recently. The Boxing Day tsunami which struck Indonesia and Thailand, for example, the Japanese tsunami that swamped a town and caused major casualties – so is this modelling jumping on the bandwagon.

Over at the Daily Mail we have a report on Doggerland from 2012 – provided by a professor from St Andrews University in Scotland, Dr Richard Bates, and see www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2167731/Britains-Atlantis-North-… … which has some stunning images and modelling of the sea bed (with maps and drawings). A well presented piece – apart from the reference to Atlantis. The date is given as 6500BC, roughly equal to 8200 years ago – but the same event is being described. We learn that during the Pleistocene the North Sea basin was home to mammoths and other large mammals while in the Mesolithic a reasonable number of people lived on what is now the sea bed. It was devastated by 'sea level rises' and Doggerland actually stretched from Scotland across to Denmark, and so on. The University of Birmingham also did a lot of work on the southern North Sea basin – making use of gas field data.


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