Norddeutsche Tiefebene

North German Plains

Most of Germany is covered by mountains and plateaus. But to the north, about the latitude of Braunschweig and Hannover, the north German coastal plains start. The area is covered by quartary sediments like sand and gravel, deposited during the ice ages. At this time, more than 10,000 years ago, the plains were covered by glaciers which came from Scandinavia. The sand and gravel is not karstified, and the ground water table is in the low plain very close to the surface, so there is not much chance for Karst.

Deep below the surface, the layers of the Zechstein (ExplainUpper Permian) consist of salt. This layers are rather mighty. The specific weight of the salt is lower than that of the layers above. And the high pressure of the layers above makes the salt flow. At a pressure of 100 kg/cm² salt starts to flow. In the Jurassic and Cretacious the salt started to flow, thickened at some points, thinned at others and formed pillows. Today most of those pillows formed salt diapirs, formed like champignon and sometimes extending up close tothe surface. The forces of the salt pressing upwards forced the Jurassic and Cretacious limestone and sandstone layers above to bend upwards. The form rather typical hills.

This developent is mostly finished by now in the southern part of the plains. The salt reached an elevation where the forces of the process fade out. But to the north, at the NorthSea coast, the process started later is not completed now. The Salt diapir below Bad Segeberg was uplifted after the last Ice Age, which means in the last 8,000 years. Earlier uplifts would have been cut of by the glaciers anyway.

The uplift of hills by the salt is called halokinetic, where halo is derived from the greek word for salt, and kinetic means mechanical force. Another geographic feature is also formed by the salt, but not by halokinetic forces. Numerous lakes, like the Arendsee near Salzwedel are located on the top of an diapir. The ground water dissolved the top of the salt and transported it away. The resulting cavern collapsed and thus formed a sort of doline which filled with ground water soon. Gypsum is the diapir is not as soluble as salt, so it accumulates and saves the diapir against further solution.

All in all the northern plains of German, although formed of carbonate rock, have very little caves. This is because of the geography, the flat surface and the high ground water table. There are several other karst features. Caves like the ShowcaveKalkberghöhle are very rare and extremely interesting.