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Abstract

The very rapid subsidence, sediment accumulation, and hydrocarbon maturation observed in many small extensional or “pull-apart” basins can be explained using a McKenzie-type model. It has been shown that in basins of 100 km width or less, lateral heat loss is quite important and accelerates lithospheric cooling and subsidence. We show here that cooling that is simultaneous with stretching is very important for basins formed by stretching of lithospheric blocks that are 10 km to several tens of kilometers wide. In fact, for most of these very narrow basins, most of the anomalous heat introduced by stretching is also dissipated during the stretching event. We have calculated the effect of alternate short periods of stretching and cooling to approximate simultaneous stretching and cooling. The results show, for example, that for a block, initially 10 km wide and stretched uniformly at 3 cm/yr, sufficient subsidence will take place in 200,000 years to accumulate 4—5 km of sediment. A consequence of this rapid subsidence is initial sediment starvation. These results may be applicable to many of the small extensional basins associated with the San Andreas transform system.

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