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The Cenozoic evolution of the North Sea Basin is described, drawing on subsurface data and a series of palaeogeographical maps compiled from a variety of published studies, mainly emphasizing the development of the eastern part of the basin. A model that accounts for the sedimentation history of the North Sea Basin and the topography (including maximum and mean surface elevation) of southern Norway is proposed. The model involves regional plume-related uplift of an initial low-elevation peneplain in early Paleogene time followed by repeated episodes of climatic deterioration and eustatic fall, most notably at the Eocene-Oligocene transition, in late Mid-Miocene time, and eventually culminating with the development of full glacial conditions in southern Norway in Plio-Pleistocene time. These episodes correspond to periods of accelerated sediment supply from southern Norway that reflect increased rates of incision (dissection) of the source area. It is argued that the present-day elevation of >2km of mountain peaks in southern Norway adjacent to deep valleys and fjords could have been caused by isostatic uplift in response to dissection of a high-elevation peneplain. Hence it may not be necessary to invoke late Cenozoic tectonic uplift events to explain the present-day topography of southern Norway.

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