Tectonic evolution of the NW Red Sea-Gulf of Suez rift system
S. M. Khalil, K. R. McClay, 2001. "Tectonic evolution of the NW Red Sea-Gulf of Suez rift system", Non-Volcanic Rifting of Continental Margins: A Comparison of Evidence from Land and Sea, R. C. L. Wilson, R. B. Whitmarsh, B. Taylor, N. Froitzheim
Download citation file:
The NW Red Sea-Gulf of Suez rift system was initiated during Late Oligocene time and underwent extension in a N65°E direction, almost orthogonal to pre-existing WNW-trending Pan African shear-zone fabrics in the crystalline basement of the Sinai-African plate. Earliest syn-rift sediments are Upper Oligocene continental clastic deposits with minor synrift basalts. Early Miocene sedimentation was dominated by shallow marine clastic deposits, which developed variable stratigraphic architectures as a response to the interaction of extensional faulting, sea-level changes, sediment supply and dispersal. Analysis of fault geometries, fault kinematics and sedimentation patterns indicates that rift-normal extension predominated throughout the Late Oligocene-Early Mid-Miocene evolution of the rift. Reactivation of the Precambrian basement fabrics was the main factor controlling the fault architecture, fault linkage and evolution of the NW Red Sea-Gulf of Suez rift. Individual faults were initially strongly segmented and offset across ‘soft-linked’ relay structures. With increased extension these faults became linked by breaking down relay structures with the development of local ‘hard-linked’ transfer faults, thus giving rise to the rhomboidal fault pattern of the rift system. In Mid-Miocene time, the Levant–Gulf of Aqaba transform boundary was established, linking the Red Sea rift plate boundary to the convergent Bitlis–Zagros plate boundary. This resulted in a dramatic decrease in extension rates within the Gulf of Suez whereas the northern Red Sea continued to extend, with significant syn-rift sediments deposited in Late Miocene–Pliocene time in offshore fault-bounded basins.
Figures & Tables
Non-volcanic continental margins may form up to 30% all present-day passive margins, and remnants of them are preserved in mountain belts. The papers in this volume demonstrate the benefits of integrating offshore and onshore studies, and illustrate the range of information obtained at different scales when comparing evidence from land and sea. Data sets collected across a range of spatial scales are evaluated: thin sections, cores, outcrops, seismic reflection profiles, and other geophysical data. The outcrop scale is crucial because it enables the spatial gulf to be bridged between DSDP and ODP cores and marine seismic data. There is also the problem that basins on land and beneath the sea inevitably have had different post-rift histories resulting in their contrasting present-day elevation. In mountain belts, portions of continental margins and oceanic crust are superbly exposed, but dismembered by subsequent compressional tectonics. Off present-day passive margins, extensional features have only been slightly deformed, if at all, by compressional movements, but are buried beneath significant thicknesses of post-rift sediments and so can only be sampled by ocean drilling at a small number of points.
The first paper reviews the synergies that have occurred between investigations of the eastern North Atlantic non-volcanic margins and remnants of similar Mesozoic margins preserved in the Alps, and some later papers return to this theme. However, papers describing margins from other parts of the world show that it may be premature to use models based on the Atlantic and the Alps as the paradigm for all non-volcanic margins. The following 25 papers in the book are grouped under the following headings: (1) Margin overviews; (2) Exhumed crust and mantle; (3) Tectonics and stratigraphy; (4)Numerical models of extension and magmatism.