Exhumation of the North Atlantic margin: introduction and background
Published:January 01, 2002
A. G. Doré, J. A. Cartwright, M. S. Stoker, J. P. Turner, N. J. White, 2002. "Exhumation of the North Atlantic margin: introduction and background", Exhumation of the North Atlantic Margin: Timing, Mechanisms and Implications for Petroleum Exploration, A. G. Doré, J. A. Cartwright, M. S. Stoker, J. P. Turner, N. White
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Since consolidation during the Caledonian and Variscan orogenies, NW Europe has undergone repeated episodes of exhumation (the exposure of formerly buried rocks) as a result of such factors as post-orogenic unroofing, rift-shoulder uplift, hotspot activity, compressive tectonics, eustatic sea-level change, glaciation and iso-static readjustment. Modern measurement techniques, such as apatite fission-track analysis, have helped to establish useful denudation chronologies for this entire time span. However, the main observational legacy of exhumation around the North Atlantic is preserved in the comparatively young (Mesozoic and Cenozoic) geological record of this region. This is clearly reflected by the unifying theme of this volume, which documents evidence for the widespread uplift and emergence of large sections of the North Atlantic margin in Cenozoic time.
All students of NW European geology are aware of the compelling palaeogeographical evidence for the transition at the end of the Cretaceous from shelf seas and low-relief landmasses to an area dominated by highlands and newly emergent landmasses, flanked by shelves dominated by rejuvenated clastic deposition. Similarly, it is also widely known that the highlands of Norway and Scotland do not represent the original Caledonian mountain range but must be instead a product of late emergence or uplift.
The Cenozoic uplift of Fennoscandia in particular has a long history of study. It is arguably one of the oldest debates in the history of systematic geology and featured prominently in Lyell's Principles of Geology (Lyell 1830-1875). All of this early work was, of course, based on onshore observations. By
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Exhumation of the North Atlantic Margin: Timing, Mechanisms and Implications for Petroleum Exploration
Northwest Europe has undergone repeated episodes of exhumation (the exposure of formerly buried rocks) due to such factors as post-orogenic unroofing, rift-shoulder uplift, hotspot activity, compressive tectonics, eustatic sea-level change, glaciation and isostatic readjustment. The main observational legacy of this exhumation around the North Atlantic is preserved in the comparatively young (Mesozoic and Cenozoic) geological record of this region. Despite a rapid increase in the understanding of the exhumation of this area, there are still many unknowns: the relative intensity of the various phases and their geographical variation; mechanisms of uplift; primary causes of exhumation. Tied to these problems is the larger-scale question of whether the circum-North Atlantic is unique or whether its behaviour is typical for passive margins.
There have been several attempts in recent years to bring together researchers to address these questions, but these have often focused on one particular geographical area or one particular exhumation phase. Before an integrated story can emerge, disciplines that have traditionally remained apart need to come together: geomorphology and offshore seismic interpretation; Palaeogene and Neogene studies; Scandinavian and British-Irish research schools. This volume represents a first step in this direction by providing an inter-disciplinary set of studies over a wide latitudinal range of the NW European margin.
The studies presented here are based on a variety of techniques that have been employed to address the main concerns of North Atlantic exhumation history, including timing, mechanisms and the sedimentary response of the continental margin. The 25 papers presented in this volume have been arranged in four sections to reflect the highly varied approach to this subject and the commercial implications. Part 1 is concerned with exhumation mechanisms, focusing primarily on the Iceland Plume. Parts 2 and 3 present ongoing research on the continental margin record offshore Scandinavia, Britain, Ireland and the Faroes. The papers in these two parts illustrate the communication that is now occurring between the two regional research schools and the acknowledgement of a multiphase Cenozoic denudation chronology for both areas. Part 4 contains five papers describing the significant changes to the hydrocarbon systems that occur in exhumed basins, detailing the implications for hydrocarbon-bearing basins.
Exhumation of the North Atlantic Margin: Timing, Mechanisms and Implications for Petroleum Exploration is the most up-to-date and complete volume integrating all aspects of the Mesozoic-Cenozoic exhumation of North Atlantic borderlands. Itwill be of interest to those within the oil industry, geomorphologists and other workers with an interest in NW European regional geology.