Abstract

Geophysical data collected during a detailed survey in Baffin Bay have shown that lineated magnetic anomalies trending north-northwest occupy the deep central region. These anomalies exhibit maximum amplitudes of about 300 nT and can be modelled by a 1-km thick magnetic source layer divided into blocks of normal and reversed polarity. The magnetizations required are comparable with those of oceanic basalts. A striking feature of the gravity field is a 20 mGal gravity low, about 20 km wide, which runs through the centre of the bay with approximately the same trend as the magnetic lineations. The gravity low is associated with a change in crustal structure measured from seismic refraction data and sometimes with a deepening of the sediment-basement interface, reminiscent of a median valley. These results suggest that the magnetic anomalies were produced by sea-floor spreading and that the gravity low marks an extinct spreading centre in Baffin Bay. Comparisons of the magnetic anomaly profiles with a model profile computed for magnetic anomalies 13–24 (38 to 60 Ma), show good correlation between the observed and computed anomalies in the time period represented by anomalies 13–21, with slow spreading rates of about 0.3–0.4 cm yr−1 perpendicular to the spreading axis. These results are in reasonable agreement with magnetic anomaly identifications and spreading rates deduced from geophysical data in the Labrador Sea. The direction of plate motion in Baffin Bay is not well defined from the data, but the Labrador Sea data require plate motions at a highly oblique angle to the spreading centre in the bay. Peculiarities of the postulated spreading centre, including the change in crustal structure beneath the gravity low along its strike from south to north, and the decrease in coherence and amplitude of the magnetic anomalies immediately north of the survey area, may be the result of these very low spreading rates, oblique spreading and changes in spreading direction, or the proximity of this area to the junction with a possible major transform fault through the Nares Strait.

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