Magma-Assisted Continental Break-up Encroached on Previously Stretched Continental Lithosphere – the NE Greenland Composite Passive Margin
Abstract:Volcanic continental margins have a number of distinctive features that are different from those typical of magma-poor continental margins. However, in some places volcanic margins may develop parallel to older, highly extended rift systems. In such situations the resultant continental margin shows a complex structure that merges the characteristics of volcanic and non-volcanic margins. Furthermore, the evolution of this younger magma-rich margin is restricted by the pre-existing lithospheric architecture, causing it to diverge from the generally assumed formation model. We use the case of NE Greenland to demonstrate the structure of a composite margin firstly subjected to extensive extension and later overprinted by magma-assisted continental break-up. The NE Greenland continental margin is a highly extended margin, that is up to 250km wide, with crystalline crust attaining the maximum thickness near to the coast of Greenland and at the Danmarkshaven Ridge. The latter represents a major basement horst formed during an Early Cretaceous rifting event. To the east of the Danmarkshaven Ridge, crust is stretched and onlapped by the Early Cretaceous sedimentary basin. The effects of Tertiary break-up are observable in a relatively narrow zone 80 km wide that usually includes an extended edge of continental crust and an adjacent section of oceanic crust. A volcano-sedimentary succession produced during the break-up reaches the maximum thickness of c. 8000 m above a continent-ocean transition (COB). Oceanic crust overlain by mixed volcanic and sedimentary rocks is thicker than usual. No observable SDRs or igneous transitional crust are present near to the COB. Instead, a chain of high density bodies follow the COB at the base of crust.
The features observed suggest relatively little extension associated with the Tertiary break-up. Instead localised mantle melting presumably led to rapid break-up with crustal dilatation promptly balanced by production of thick oceanic crust and magma underplating at Moho level. There was practically no syn-rift phase but volcanism and deposition of extensive sedimentary succession followed the initial separation of continental crust.