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Abstract

Despite a long history of investigation, several critical issues regarding the glacial history of NW Europe, particularly in currently marine areas, remain unsolved. In this study, we present a comprehensive three-dimensional (3D) seismic interpretation of an area measuring 2000 km2 in the western part of the Danish North Sea that exhibits several buried Quaternary landforms. Well data are used to assign minimum and maximum ages for the studied sedimentary succession. The most prominent buried landforms are three large-scale tunnel valleys of probable Saalian age that extend over more than 20 km across the western and southern part of the study area. These valleys most probably formed through subglacial meltwater erosion close to the termination of a former ice sheet. In the southern part of the study area, an extensive network of small-scale, dendritic seismic lineations interpreted as a palaeo-drainage system characterizes the landward termination of one major tunnel valley. This drainage system was active either contemporaneously or shortly after the development of the tunnel valley. Interpretation of this system as contemporaneous to tunnel-valley formation suggests that steady-state subglacial meltwater discharge was funnelled through a drainage system into the main tunnel valley. In contrast, interpretation of the drainage network as post-incisional points to the development of a post-glacial river system re-using the pre-existing tunnel valley as a downstream fluvial pathway. This uncertainty in the interpretation has important consequences for prediction of the rock content and reservoir characteristics of the tunnel-valley infill, in that either meltwater deposits or fluvial sediments form a considerable part of the tunnel-valley infill.

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