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Differential spreading along the NE Atlantic ridge system and post-breakup deformation of the adjacent continental margins

Abstract : One of the main assumptions of the theory of plate tectonics is that all lithospheric plates are rigid. However, reconstructions of the opening of the NE Atlantic Ocean, on the basis of two rigid plates (Eurasia and Greenland), lead to gaps and overlaps between the plates. The area between Iceland and the Jan Mayen Fracture Zone (JMFZ) had a complex spreading history, including progressive separation of the Jan Mayen Microcontinent (JMMC) and a ridge jump from the Aegir Ridge to the Kolbeinsey Ridge. Moreover, post-breakup compressional structures developed along the continental margin of NW Europe, but apparently not on the East Greenland Margin. We therefore investigate how compressional deformation of the NW European Margin may have resulted from variations in the direction and rate of sea-floor spreading along the various ridges. In order to reconstruct the complex spreading history of the NE Atlantic and to study the evolution of the European Margin during sea-floor spreading, we have developed a method for palinspastic reconstructions of the opening of an ocean, using magnetic anomalies and fracture zones. The best kinematic reconstructions result from subdividing the NE Atlantic into three oceanic segments: Reykjanes, Jan Mayen and Mohns. The method allows all oceanic segments to spread at a different rate and results in accurate determinations of spreading rates and relative displacements between the segments. The model ensures a good fit of the magnetic anomalies and predicts differences in direction and rate of spreading between the Reykjanes, Kolbeinsey/Aegir and Mohns ridges. This differential sea-floor spreading generated leftlateral slip between the oceanic segments: (1) from Early Eocene to Late Oligocene, along the Faeroe Fracture Zone (FFZ); and (2) from Late Eocene to Early Oligocene, as well as during the Miocene, along the JMFZ. Such left-lateral motion and the relative rotation between the oceanic segments are compatible with the development of inversion structures on the NW European Margin at these times. Field observations of Jurassic outcrops in NE Scotland have provided additional evidences for post-Jurassic right-lateral reactivation of the Great Glen Fault (GGF), under transpression. The period of reactivation may be from Late Eocene to Late Oligocene, which coincides with (1) an exhumation episode in Scotland, (2) intraplate stress from the Alpine Orogeny (3) a pulse of the Iceland Mantle Plume, and (3) left-lateral slip along the FFZ. Such left-lateral slip along the FFZ is compatible with right-lateral reactivation of the GGF. The driving forces may have come from the Iceland Mantle Plume, which was in a suitable position to generate differential sea-floor spreading along the NE Atlantic and resulting deformation of the NW European margin.
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Contributor : Isabelle Dubigeon Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - 2:42:51 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, June 2, 2022 - 2:48:11 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Friday, October 5, 2012 - 3:51:21 AM


  • HAL Id : tel-00714418, version 1


Eline Le Breton. Differential spreading along the NE Atlantic ridge system and post-breakup deformation of the adjacent continental margins. Tectonics. Université Rennes 1, 2012. English. ⟨tel-00714418⟩



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