Evidence for a Prolonged Continental Breakup Resulting From Slow Extension Rates at the Eastern North American Volcanic Rifted Margin

TitleEvidence for a Prolonged Continental Breakup Resulting From Slow Extension Rates at the Eastern North American Volcanic Rifted Margin
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsBécel, A, Davis, JK, Shuck, BD, Van Avendonk, HJA, Gibson, JC
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
KeywordsCentral Atlantic opening, continental breakup, continental margin, proto-oceanic crust, steady-state seafloor spreading, volcanic rifted margin

When continental rifting is accompanied by localized magmatism under extensional stress, the breakup duration can be short and the continent/ocean transition sharp, as mantle melts are thought to be efficient at heating and weakening the lithosphere. This mode of rifting has been invoked for the Eastern North American Margin (ENAM) based on the existing geophysical data. Here, we present results from multichannel seismic profiles from the ENAM Community Seismic Experiment offshore North Carolina, U.S. Our survey area encompasses both the East Coast Magnetic Anomaly (ECMA) and the Blake Spur Magnetic Anomaly (BSMA), which lies 200-km farther seaward. Our prestack depth-migrated seismic images reveal major changes in the structure of the igneous crust across the BSMA. Between the ECMA and BSMA, we image a proto-oceanic domain of rough, faulted, and thin igneous crust. The roughness of this oceanic crust is similar to modern ultraslow spreading environments which involve the continued presence of a pre-existing lithospheric lid. Seaward of the BSMA the basement is smooth, and the crust is relatively thick, which is typical for Jurassic oceanic crust. Across the BSMA, we image a step up in basement and crustal root, which we interpret to represent complete lithospheric breakup and a transition to steady-state seafloor spreading in agreement with coincident refraction results. Our results would also indicate low extension rates in the final stages of rifting that may have influenced the thermal structure of the lithosphere and could explain the delay for continental breakup. All of these observations show that although continental rifting between eastern North America and northwest Africa was assisted by magmatic activity, it did not lead to rapid localization of extensional strain as previously thought.


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