In Europe the Carboniferous system is developed in a very interesting way. In the western and central parts of the continent (and in Great Britain) the succession of strata is very similar to that of the eastern half of North America, while in Russia it has more analogy with the western half of our continent. The changes of level which opened the period converted much of the Devonian sea-bed into land, but at the same time the sea broke in over many of the closed basins in which the Old Red Sandstone had been laid down. From the west of Ireland to central Germany, a distance of 750 miles, stretched a clear sea, free from terrigenous sediments, in which flourished an incredible number of corals, crinoids, and other calcareous organisms. From their remains was constructed an immense mass of limestone, having a thickness of 6000 feet in the northwest of England and of 2500 feet in Belgium. Above this great "Mountain Limestone," as it is called in England, come the coal measures. In Scotland the limestone is replaced by shore and shallow-water formations, such as sandstones, with some coal.
In the southwest of England and east of the Rhine in Germany, the Lower Carboniferous is represented, not by a limestone, but by a series of sandstones and slates, called the Culm, with the coal measures above. In Russia the order of succession is reversed, the productive coal beds being below and the great bulk of the limestone above, but there is some productive coal interstratified in the marine limestones of the Donjetz basin in the south. This younger Carboniferous limestone is principally composed of shells of Foraminifera. Great areas of southern and eastern As are covered by this limestone, which is also largely developed in western North America, extending as far east as Illinois. In southern Europe Spain, the south of France, the Alps, and the Balkan peninsula, the Lower Carboniferous is partly limestone and partly Culm, while the Upper is largely made up of the foraminiferal limestone associated with clastic rocks. In the Arctic Sea, Nova Zembla, Bear Island, Spitzbergen, and Greenland have Upper Carboniferous limestones.
The following table, from Kayser, displays the relations of the Carboniferous beds in eastern and western Europe: -
Littoral and Lacustrine Facies
Younger Carboniferous or
Productive Coal Measures (Russia, etc.).
In western Europe the Carboniferous period did not run such a tranquil course as in North America, but was broken by disturbances, of which the greatest were at the close of the Lower Carboniferous epoch, when the rocks were folded and upturned over extensive regions. These movements were accompanied and followed by volcanic outbursts, especially in Scotland, France, and Germany, and great eruptions occurred in China at the end of the period.
In Asia are large areas of Lower Carboniferous limestone and Culm, and of the Upper Carboniferous both the foraminiferal limestone and productive coal measures. China is one of the richest countries in the world in supplies of coal. Foraminiferal limestones of the Upper Carboniferous are found in Japan, Borneo, and Sumatra.