Delineating the Exmouth Mantle Plume (NW Australia) : Implications for the Origin of Volcanic Margins

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Maxim Hendrik Rohrman, Self Employed, Houston, TX, United States
Denudation and magmatism are distinct characteristics of Large Igneous Provinces, such as the Northwest Australian volcanic margin. Unfortunately, its temporal and spatial extent is poorly defined. Here, I present a simple isostatic model relating denudation to plume induced lithospheric thinning and underplating to delineate the Late Jurassic/Early Cretaceous Exmouth mantle plume. This upwelling was centered on a highly extended and subsided continental fragment known as the subsea Sonne/Sonja Ridge area and includes the Cuvier Margin (CM) and Cape Range Fracture Zone (CRFZ). The region is characterized by ~3 km denudation and ~ 500 m tectonic uplift, with erosion products acting as provenance for the Early Cretaceous Lower Barrow delta. Partial melting of the plume generated an underplate, characterized as a high velocity body (HVB) on seismic data. Denudation analysis indicates that only ~40 % of the HVB is melt related, with the effective underplate ~ 4 km thick at the plume centre, decreasing in the outer regions. Widespread plume induced convective lithospheric thinning set the boundary conditions for subsequent extension related magmatism and breakup in the Valanginian, as recorded by subsidence analysis of exploration wells. Hot plume derived material flowed to regions under extension, initiating additional magmatism now observed as SDRs (Seaward Dipping Reflectors series), initially thick magmatic crust, followed by normal ocean spreading in the Hauterivian. After initial upwelling, the thermal plume can be traced in a western direction as a hotspot to the Quokka Rise in the mid Cretaceous, before terminating after 35 – 50 Ma of activity. These findings suggest that most volcanic margins are generated by plume upwellings that are relatively passive features, with uplift consisting of a combination of plume induced convective lithospheric thinning and underplating. Melt migration and mantle heating subsequently lower stresses and facilitate breakup.