3D Geodynamic Modelling Reveals Stress and Strain Partitioning within Continental Rifting

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Luke Stephen Mondy1,2, Patrice F Rey2, Guillaume Duclaux3 and Louis Noel Moresi4, (1)CSIRO, North Ryde, Australia, (2)University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, (3)CSIRO, North Ryde, NSW, Australia, (4)University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia
The relative movement between two divergent rigid plates on a sphere can be described using a Euler pole and an angular velocity. On Earth, this typically results in extensional velocities increasing linearly as a function of the distance from the pole (for example in the South Atlantic, North Atlantic, Woodlark Basin, Red Sea Basin, etc.).

This property has strong implications for continental rifting and the formation of passive margins, given the role that extensional velocity plays on both rift style (wide or narrow), fault pattern, subsidence histories, and magmatism.

Until now, this scissor-style opening has been approached via suites of 2D numerical models of contrasting extensional velocities, complimenting field geology and geophysics. New advances in numerical modelling tools and computational hardware have enabled us to investigate the geodynamics of this problem in a 3D self-consistent high-resolution context. Using Underworld at a grid resolution of 2 km over a domain of 500 km x 500 km x 180 km, we have explored the role of the velocity gradient on the strain pattern, style of rifting, and decompression melting, along the margin.

We find that the three dimensionality of this problem is important. The rise of the asthenosphere is enhanced in 2D models compared to 3D numerical solutions, due to the limited volume of material available in 2D. This leads to oceanisation occurring significantly sooner in 2D models. The 3D model shows that there is a significant time and space dependent flows parallel to the rift-axis. A similar picture emerges from the stress field, showing time and space partitioning, including regions of compression separating areas dominated by extension. The strain pattern shows strong zonation along the rift axis, with increasingly localised deformation with extension velocity and though time.