Berlin Environmental Atlas

01.17 Geological Outline (Edition 2013)

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Geological maps are a synthesis of general geo-scientific information on the present situation, and involve an evaluation of all drilling results, ascertainments, the morphology and of the state of knowledge to date. In addition, there are maps on particular specific areas derived from or based upon geological maps, such as Engineering-geological maps, Groundwater isomaps, or Maps of the geothermic potential.

Since geological maps can generally depict only those geological units which are present at the surface, they must be supplemented by information on the sequence of layers, the three-dimensional structure of a profile section, and an explanatory text such as the present one.

Due to the large degree of compilation of various geological units for the sake of better visibility, this geological overview map has been called a Geological Outline.

The morphology of the Berlin-Brandenburg landscape and its development

The basic pattern of the surface formation of Berlin and Brandenburg is essentially determined by three major relief units which extend through the area from southeast to northwest, and which owe their formation and emergence to the processes which occurred during the Quaternary Ice Age (Fig. 1). They are:

  • The Southern Ridge, including the Fläming region and the Lower Lusatian boundary wall, which to the south borders on the Lusatian Valley, itself part of the Breslau-Magdeburg Glacial Spillway
  • The broad, but very heterogeneous intermediate Plates and Lowlands Area, with a large number of greater and lesser, variegated plateaus, interspersed by three large glacial spillways, the Glogau-Baruth, the Warsaw-Berlin and the Thorn-Eberswalde Spillways, and
  • The Northern or Baltic Ridge, which, in Brandenburg, includes the Uckermark district.

Figure 1
1 – River floodplains;
2 – Glacial spillways incl. meltwater valleys, low fluvial terrace, peri-glacial basin in the old moraine area;
34 Ground moraine, melt-water formations, end moraines:
      3 – Young drift plateau,
      4 – Old drift plateau;
5 - Areas of old deformed deposits;
6 - Pre-quaternary
Fig. 1: Geological-morphological structure of Brandenburg and Berlin (Source: Sonntag 1995)

The emergence and formation of the natural landscape in Berlin-Brandenburg are closely connected to the most recent era of the earth’s development, the Quaternary, generally also known as the Ice Age. The Quaternary is a segment of the earth’s history during which global climatic fluctuations led to repeated shifts between glaciations and warmer interglacials in relatively short geological time periods, with very considerable impact on the fauna and the flora. During the recent phase of the Quaternary, a large-scale expansion of huge inland ice covered the northern part of central Europe. With annual mean temperatures of below 0°C, conditions during the Ice Age at our latitudes were similar to those that we would encounter today in the ice-covered regions of Greenland or Spitzbergen.

For more than 100 years, the term Glacial Series has been used to designate the characteristic horizontal/spatial landscape sequence and the morphological phenomenology typical of the processes during the era of the advance and the later disintegration and melting of the inland ice masses (Fig. 2).

Figure 2
Fig. 2: The Glacial Series – a schematic image compiled into a block representation, from various authors, by Sonntag (2005)

The main geo-morphological elements of the Glacial Series are

  • The end moraine, formed by sediment accumulation at the edge of the ice due to buckling, or as a result of a more or less stationary glacial edge
  • The ground moraine deposited by the ice in the rear area
  • The outwash, deposited over a wide area in front of the glacier (the outwash plain) by meltwater, and finally
  • The glacial spillway, which brings together the outflowing meltwater and passes it off toward the northwest.

The glacial series is supplemented by a number of generally less frequently encountered geomorphological formations such as eskers, kames and drumlins, and also tongue bassins and kettle-holes, but especially by the channels and lakes which mark the landscape (cf. Marcinek & Nitz 1973, also Liedtke 1975).

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