An integrated workflow has been devised for the investigation of deep-water rifted continental margins. At a margin this allows us to predict the crustal structure, the distribution of continental-lithosphere thinning and the location of the ocean–continent transition with a new degree of confidence. The workflow combines the analytical techniques of 2D or 3D gravity inversion, 2D or 3D flexural backstripping with reverse thermal subsidence modelling, upper-crustal fault analysis and rifted margin forward modelling. No one technique on its own can provide all of the required answers, nor can it provide answers without some degree of uncertainty. The use of a combination of techniques, however, provides answers to several different problems and, crucially, more confidence in these answers.
The workflow provides direct information on the present-day geometry of rifted margins and leads towards a better understanding of the geodynamic evolution of these margins. It also provides information which can inform the exploration process by making predictions about crustal structure at the ocean–continent transition, the location of the continent–ocean boundary, stretching-factor, heat-flow magnitude and history, palaeobathymetric history and subsurface palaeostructure. Application of the workflow is illustrated here with reference to the continental margins of West India, Brazil, West Australia, Norway and Newfoundland–Iberia.