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Deformable plate tectonic models of the southern North Atlantic

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Significant, poly-phase deformation occurred prior to, simultaneous with, and after the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean. Understanding this deformation history is essential for understanding the regional development and the mechanisms controlling rifting and subsequent failure or breakup. Here, we primarily use published constraints to construct deformable plate tectonic models for the southern North Atlantic from 200 Ma to present using GPlates. The aim of this work is to test both the capability of the GPlates deformable modelling approach and the reliability of published plate reconstructions. Overall, modelled crustal thickness values at 0 Ma produced from the deformable models show general, regional-scale, similarities with values derived from the inversion of gravity data for crustal thickness. However, the deformable models typically underestimate thinning in marginal basins and overestimate crustal thickness in continental fragments compared to values from gravity inversion. This is possibly due to: 1) thinning occurring earlier than the 200 Ma start time modelled, 2) variations in the original crustal thickness, 3) depth-dependent stretching, 4) rigid blocks undergoing some degree of thinning, and 5) variations in the mesh density of the models. The results demonstrate that inclusion of micro-continental fragments, and locally defined limits of continental crust, generally produce results more akin to observations. One exception is the Grand Banks where global GPlates models produce more realistic deformation, likely due to the inclusion of the exhumed domains continent-ward of the transition zone boundary. Results also indicate that Flemish Cap rotation is required to provide a reasonable fit between North America and Iberia, with the palaeo-position of the Flemish Cap likely to be the proto-Orphan sub-basins. Moreover, the East and West Orphan sub-basins formed separately due to the respective rotations of the Flemish Cap and the Orphan Knoll, which was likely associated with other continental fragments that subsequently contributed to the thicker crust forming the boundary between the East and West Orphan basins. The results also suggest a link between tectonic and magmatic processes. For example, the inclusion of an Orphan Knoll micro-continental block results in greater extension (higher beta factors) in the northern West Orphan Basin near the termination of the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone, and the site of the Charlie-Gibbs Volcanic Province (CGVP). Thus, we infer that the CGVP was likely influenced by plate tectonic processes through the concentration of strain resulting from interaction in proximity to the transform system. Finally, marginal basins that were considered to be conjugate and thus related, may only appear conjugate through later rotation of micro-continental blocks, and thus their genesis is not directly related.


(2019). Deformable plate tectonic models of the southern North Atlantic. Journal of Geodynamics, 11 -37.

Acceptance Date May 18, 2019
Publication Date Jul 1, 2019
Journal Journal of Geodynamics
Print ISSN 0264-3707
Publisher Elsevier
Pages 11 -37
Keywords Rifting, Magmatism, North Atlantic, Deformable plate models, GPlates, Continental breakup, Tectonics, Plate tectonics, Geodynamics, Conjugate margins, Microplates, Rifted margins, Passive margins, Continental margins, Modelling, Crustal structure, Crust,
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