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Abstract

The Cenozoic development of the North Atlantic province has been dramatically influenced by the behaviour of the Iceland Plume, whose striking dominance is manifest by long-wavelength free-air gravity anomalies and by oceanic bathymetric anomalies. Here, we use these anomalies to estimate the amplitude and wavelength of present-day dynamic uplift associated with this plume. Maximum dynamic support in the North Atlantic is 1.5-2 km at Iceland itself. Most of Greenland is currently experiencing dynamic support of 0.5-1 km, whereas the NW European shelf is generally supported by < 0.5 km. The proto-Iceland Plume had an equally dramatic effect on the Early Cenozoic palaeogeography of the North Atlantic margins, as we illustrate with a study of plume-related uplift, denudation and sedimentation on the continental shelf encompassing Britain and Ireland. We infer that during Paleocene time a hot subvertical sheet of asthenosphere welled up beneath an axis running from the Faroes through the Irish Sea towards Lundy, generating a welt of magmatic underplating of the crust which is known to exist beneath this axis. Transient and permanent uplift associated with this magmatic injection caused regional denudation, and consequently large amounts of clastic sediment have been shed into surrounding basins during Cenozoic time. Mass balance calculations indicate agreement between the volume of denuded material and the volume of Cenozoic sediments deposited offshore in the northern North Sea Basin and the Rockall Trough. The volume of material denuded from Britain and Ireland is probably insufficient to account for the sediment in the Faroe-Shetland Basin and an excess of sediment has been supplied to the Porcupine Basin. We emphasize the value of combining observations from both oceanic and continental realms to elucidate the evolution of the Iceland Plume through space and time.

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