Quaternary Geology

Quaternary Geology is a discipline that deals with the youngest period in Earth's history -- circa the past 2.6 million years. This period is characterized by major climate fluctuations and transitions between glacial and inter-glacial periods. Many of the landforms, soil and loose rock (glacial debris) we have in Norway today originated during glaciations.

During the Quaternary period in Norway, there have been about 40 glaciations and inter-glaciations. Glaciers have ravaged through Norway numerous times and leaving a strong impression on our landscape, including the characteristic fjords and valleys. But it is from the last glacial period we find the freshest tracks of glaciation. The last glacial period, known as the "Weichselian" in Northern Europe, started c.117, 000 years ago and ended c.11,700 years ago.

The largest portion of the sediments, soil and loose rock deposits in Norway was formed towards the end of the Weichselian ice age.

These deposits are made up of marine sediments (ie. clay or gravel) that are found far above today's sea level, as well as moraine covers and ridges, glaciofluvial deposits (ie. gravel and beach sand), as well as many other types of debris. These deposits are very important, for example, sand and gravel resources, groundwater reservoirs, agricultural soil and building foundations. In addition, understanding of these deposits are important in the assessment of the risk of landslides. Knowledge of these deposits may even contribute how the landscape is used for recreation. Within a human time perspective, these resources are non-renewable and therefore understanding them must be part of their management.

Detailed Quaternary mapping and research in land-based and marine environments will provide the much needed information for the responsible management of the resources, as well as for the improved understanding of our natural landscape and the processes that shape it.