The Mesozoic–Cenozoic separation of Greenland and North America produced the small oceanic basins of the Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay, connected via a complex transform system through the Davis Strait. During rifting and partial breakup sedimentary basins formed that record the changing regional sediment supply. The onshore and offshore stratigraphy of Central West Greenland outlines the presence of a major fluvial system that existed during the Cretaceous and was later redirected in the Early Cenozoic by the formation of the West Greenland Igneous Province. Hydrological analysis of Greenland's isostatically balanced basement topography outlines two major drainage systems that likely flowed across Greenland prior to the onset of glaciation and emptied into the Sisimiut Basin within the Davis Strait, offshore West Greenland. The course of the northern drainage system suggests that it initially flowed NW into the Cretaceous/Palaeocene Nuussuaq Basin, before being redirected SW around the West Greenland Igneous Province in the Mid-Palaeocene. Moreover, characteristics of these two drainage systems suggest they acted as a single larger fluvial system, prior to the onset of glaciation, that was likely the primary source of sediment across Central West Greenland throughout the Cretaceous and Palaeogene. This scenario provides a greater understanding of the West Greenland margin's late Cenozoic evolution, which differs from previous interpretations that hypothesize a period of considerable post-rift tectonism and uplift. This work highlights the importance of large pre-glacial drainage systems across North Atlantic passive margins and their relevance when studying post-rift stratigraphy in rifted margin settings.

Supplementary material: Isostatic modelling, hydrological analysis and chi mapping is available at: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5050146

You do not currently have access to this article.