Geodynamic models of continental extension and the formation of non-volcanic rifted continental margins
Jerry C. Bowling, Dennis L. Harry, 2001. "Geodynamic models of continental extension and the formation of non-volcanic rifted continental margins", 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
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Finite-element models of continental rifting show that formation of non-volcanic rifted margins may be the result of extension of a rheologically homogeneous crust. In such circumstances lithosphere necking does not become well developed until late in the rift history, delaying the onset of decompression melting in the asthenosphere until the last 10% of the rifting episode. This result is robust over a broad range of mantle temperatures, margin geometries, and extension rates. A cool mantle is not required, so the models are able to account for the production of oceanic crust at the end of amagmatic rifting episodes. The duration of the syn-rift melting episode is most sensitive to changes in extension rate, with higher extension rates leading to shorter periods of melt production. The duration of the rifting episode is controlled by extension rate and initial crustal thickness, and the geometry of the margin after continental break-up is controlled by initial crustal thickness and the distribution of pre-existing rheological heterogeneity in the crust. The model results are generally compatible with the dimensions and extension rates of rifted continental margins across the globe, and provide a particularly good fit to the evolution of the Iberia Abyssal Plain margin.
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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.