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Abstract

We present results of stratigraphic modeling and quantitative analysis of subsidence data for the central North Sea basin. Tectonic subsidence curves are given for 15 wells in the southern part of the Central graben. Subsidence analysis and thermomechanical modeling show that Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous multiple stretching phases with a finite duration are required to explain the observed stratigraphic record. Our analysis demonstrates that intraplate stresses are not only important for basin formation, but also play a significant role in the subsequent evolution of the North Sea basin. Strong deviations from thermally induced subsidence, probably caused by late-stage compression, are observed for the late Neogene. Ignorance of the vertical motions of the lithosphere induced by late-stage compression during postrift evolution can produce substantial errors in estimates of crustal extension derived from analysis of basement subsidence using stretching models. Quantification of the subsidence caused by postrift compression has important implications for extensional models of basin subsidence. The paleostress curve inferred from the stratigraphic modeling shows a trend with a change from tensional and neutral stresses during Mesozoic times to a stress regime of more overall compressional character during Cenozoic times. Superimposed on this long-term trend are short-term stress fluctuations. This paleostress curve and the associated stratigraphic record of the North Sea basin sheds light on the record of paleostress measurements in the northwestern European platform and is consistent with data on the kinematic evolution of the Tethys belt. Thèse findings demonstrate the key importance of tectonics and stress-induced vertical motions related to rifting events in the northern Atlantic region and the interaction of the Eurasian and African plates in controlling the stratigraphic evolution of the North Sea basin.

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