Influence of lower crustal rheology on onset and distribution of melting and serpentinisation during rifting: comparison with the Brazilian/African conjugate margins

Friday, 19 December 2014: 1:55 PM
Marta Perez-Gussinye1, Mario Neto Araujo2, Marco Thoaldo Romeiro2, Miguel Andres Martinez1, Jason Phipps Morgan1 and Elena Ros1, (1)Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, United Kingdom, (2)PETROBRAS, CENPES, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
The onset and distribution of melting and serpentinisation during rifting determine the continent-ocean transition width and composition and have been shown to depend on extension velocity. Conductive cooling during slow rifting favors serpentinisation and inhibits melting (Perez-Gussinye et al., 2006). Here we use numerical modeling to show that, additionally, lower crustal rheology, which also controls margin symmetry and width (Brune et al. 2014), strongly influences the onset and distribution of melting and serpentinisation. We find that strong lower crust rheologies effectively couple deformation in upper crust and mantle and lead to rapid crustal break-up through crust-cutting faults (see Brune et al., 2014), allowing serpentinisation to start relatively early and producing narrow, symmetric margins. Coupling of lithospheric layers leads to rapid asthenospheric uplift and the onset of melting at a relatively early stage during extension. For slow velocities, serpentinisation starts before melting, and the little magma produced probably ponds under the serpentinite layer exhumed after crustal break-up, generating a wide continent-ocean transition. For the same extension velocities, relatively weak lower crust shows a long initial phase of distributed faulting, with moderate lithospheric thinning, followed by a long phase of sequential, oceanward younging faults, producing wider, asymmetric margins. Serpentinisation is insignificant because lower crustal flow towards the tip of the active fault inhibits the formation of crust cutting faults. Asthenospheric upwelling is less pronounced, and the onset and amount of melting is delayed with respect to the stronger lower crust case. When crustal break-up occurs magma rises to form oceanic crust and hence a narrow continent-ocean transition. Along Brazil and Africa the margin’s symmetry, width and continent-ocean transition type change as the onshore terranes in which they developed go from cratons to mobile belts. We explore how this variability, through its influence in lower crust rheology, affects the 3D architecture of this margin.