Utilization of continental transforms in break-up: observations, models and a potential link to magmatism

Posted on 17.12.2021 - 17:05
Reactivation of continental transform faults (hereafter transforms) is identified herein as a significant factor in continental break-up, based on a global review of divergent margins and numerical modelling. Divergent margins that have reactivated transforms are characterized by linear and abrupt terminations of thick continental crust. Transforms represent some of the largest structures on Earth, and these megastructures represent major lithospheric weaknesses and are therefore prone to reactivation upon changes in the stress field, which typically occur during plate break-up. The blunt termination of the margins is consistent with observations of very limited pre-breakup lithospheric thinning of such margins. This mode of break-up appears to occur abruptly and contrasts notably with highly tapered and slowly extended divergent margins. Magma leakage along transforms is well known worldwide where divergence occurs across such features. This leakage may evolve to dyke injections, further reducing the plate strength. We observe that many of the blunt margins we attribute to transform reactivation have been prone to above-normal magmatism and are marked by seaward-dipping reflectors underlain by high-velocity lower crustal intrusions. The magmatism may be directly related to the separation of abruptly terminated margins, whereby the large resulting lateral thermal gradients trigger edge-driven convection and melt addition.

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Lundin, E.R.; Doré, A.G.; Naliboff, J.; Van Wijk, J. (2021): Utilization of continental transforms in break-up: observations, models and a potential link to magmatism. Geological Society of London. Collection. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5756724.v1
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