The Effect of Crustal Strength on Volcanism During Continental Breakup

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
John J Armitage1,2, Kenni Dinesen Petersen3, Marta Perez-Gussinye1, Jenny Collier4 and Raphael Pik5, (1)Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, United Kingdom, (2)Institute de Physique du Globe de Paris, Paris, France, (3)Aarhus University, Department of Geoscience, Aarhus, Denmark, (4)Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom, (5)CRPG-CNRS, Vandoeuvre les Cedex, France
Segmentation is a fundamental property of rifted margins which is thought to be inherited from pre-breakup lithospheric structure. The volume of melt emplaced during rifting typically varies across these segments. Notable examples are the Gulf of California, break-up in the South Atlantic, and the Afar depression. For example in Afar there is a clear north south transition from break-up in the Erta Ale segment, where there is localised young (<1 Ma) volcanism, to the Dabbahu segment where there is the 4-1 Ma Stratoid volcanic series and distributed faulting. Along the Namibian and conjugate Argentinian margin there is evidence that surface area of seaward dipping reflectors change across segments. Such lateral changes in volcanism over a relatively short spatial scale are hard to explain by change in mantle temperature. We will demonstrate that crustal strength places a crucial control on the volume and composition of melt generated during break-up. We have compared models of extension with a weaker and strong lower crust based on observed rock rheologies. Melt composition and volume is found to be a function of the lower crustal rheology as it effects the shape of the melt zone during extension. By comparing a suite models we find that Afar volcanism can be matched by models with both a weak or strong lower crust. If however the crust is weaker then the equivalent volume and composition is created with less crustal thinning but over a greater period of time. The difference in time required to generate significant volcanic rock may explain the change in surface area of sub-areal volcanism in both Afar, where there is a transition of strong to weak crust from Erta Ale to Dabbahu, and off-shore Namibia. Lateral variation in volcanism between segments may therefore be fundamentally controlled by the crust.