Water wiped out Europe's land bridge

A ridge that once connected England and France.
A ridge that once connected England and France.
--Artist's concept from an Imperial College of London video.
Long before last year's Brexit vote, Britain separated from Europe in dramatic fashion, and researchers studying the geographic shifts that carved the island nation during an ice age say they know how it happened. 

    Catastrophic flooding separated Great Britain from mainland Europe some 450,000 years ago in what the Imperial College of London has dubbed “Brexit 1.0.”
    Britain had been connected to Europe "via a structural ridge that extended from southeast England to northwest France,” according to researchers from the college, along with colleagues from institutes in Europe, in an article published in the journal Nature Communications this week. 
    That ridge would have reached from Dover, England, to Calais, France, and would have been made out of the same chalk that forms the Cliffs of Dover. But the ridge, which doubled as a dam, was eliminated in two episodes.
    The researchers' seafloor data showed depressions “ deeply incised into bedrock that we interpret as giant plunge pools," they explained.
    These plunge pools in the Strait of Dover, which connects the North Sea to the English Channel, are "up to several kilometers in diameter and around 100 meters deep," recounts an article on the Imperial College of London website. Seven plunge pools extend from Calais to Dover. These pools suggest waterfalls pressured the ridge of land that separated England from France. A second flooding event, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years later, completed the task, opening the Strait of Dover. 
    The research, much like studies focusing on a land bridge that connected North America and Asia, examines geographical changes as Earth shifted from an ice age. But the separation also proved formative in Great Britain's development as an island nation. The research was led by Sanjeev Gupta and Jenny S. Collier, professors in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College of London.




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