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Ice sheets across northern Europe repeatedly met and merged in the North Sea, submerging Britain under frozen water around 1.4 million years earlier than thought.
That's according to a new study by Manchester and Aberdeen universities that looked at ancient sediment cores around the UK.
Researchers - Britain - Ice - Sheet - Times
Researchers say Britain was repeatedly submerged under a massive ice sheet that generated icebergs more than three times the height of Big Ben.
Beginning around 2.5 millions years ago, this sheet periodically advanced into waters around 820 feet (250 metres) deep where it eventually met and merged with a larger sheet from Scandinavia.
Scientists - Discovery - Breakthrough - Understanding - Extent
Scientists say the discovery marks a significant breakthrough in our understanding of the extent of past glaciation in North West Europe.
A research team led by scientists from the Universities of Aberdeen and Manchester analysed sediment cores and seismic data from deep beneath the North Sea to make the discovery.
North - Sea - Basin - Layer - Layer
The North Sea basin has been continually preserving layer upon layer of sediment over millions of years, which contains evidence for past ice sheets that is not available onshore.
Experts searched these different layers for traces of long-disappeared ice sheets through the evidence in core samples - including their sedimentary structures, minerals and the presence of microfossils.
Ice - Sheets - UK - Ireland - Time
They discovered that extensive ice sheets repeatedly covered much of the UK and Ireland and, at the same time, an even larger ice sheet covered much of Scandinavia.
The researchers explained that, back then, the North Sea was narrower and deeper than it is today, similar to a large 'fjord'.
Years - Ice - Sheets - Centre - North
By 1.9 million years ago, the two ice sheets repeatedly merged in the centre of the North Sea, filling the 'fjord', as they advanced and retreated in response to climate changes controlled by the Earth's orbit.
Until now, the scientific consensus said glaciation on this scale first occurred in the North Sea about...
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