Asymmetry of Non-Volcanic Passive Margins Induced by the Proximity of a Craton
Abstract:Symmetry of conjugated rifted margins is controlled by the rheology of the crust and the mantle, extension velocities and heterogeneities in the lithosphere. However, there is a lack of knowledge on how the feedbacks between these initial conditions influence the final architecture of passive margins and the polarity of the asymmetry.
Here we focus on cratons as stiff heterogeneities which potentially induce asymmetry. For simplicity, we choose to address only non-volcanic rifted margins developed next to cratons, such as the Brazil-Congo and Australia-Antarctica margin pairs. In the South Atlantic case, where cratons are closer to the margins (north of Sao Francisco craton and north and south of Congo craton) the margins are narrow, while wide margins develop far away from cratons. Extreme asymmetry occurs where rifting takes place close to a craton in one margin (narrow) and a fold belt in the conjugate (wide). The same is observed for the Australia-Antarctic pair in the sector of Recherche basin, where the Australian margin is narrow next to the Yilgarn craton and widens towards the east as it lays further from the craton.
We use numerical models in order to study how cratons induce asymmetry of conjugated rifted margins and affect the polarity of the asymmetry. We ran experiments with different lower crustal rheologies for a fold belt lithosphere in order to understand which rheologies 'naturally’ result in asymmetric margins. We also ran experiments where a cratonic lithosphere is placed next to a fold belt lithosphere, and where rifting is initiated by a weak seed in the fold belt at different distances from the craton.
We found that where some fold belt experiments result in symmetric margins, their equivalent experiments with craton result in asymmetric margins. Furthermore, strong- and intermediate-rheology experiments with cratons showcase narrow margins in the craton side and wide margins on the fold belt side. We also observe that the distance from the rifting initiation to the craton influences the width of the margins. Additionally, we analyse viscosity, stress, strain and temperature fields given as an output from the models, in order to understand the feedbacks between the different processes that shape rifted margins in the presence of a craton.