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Neogene evolution of the Atlantic continental margin of NW Europe (Lofoten Islands to SW Ireland) : anything but passive.

By M.S. Stoker, D. Praeg, P.M. Shannon, B.O. Hjelstuen, J.S. Laberg, T. Nielsen, T.C.E. van Weering, H.P. Sejrup and D. Evans

Abstract

A regional stratigraphic framework for the Neogene succession along and across the NW European margin is presented, based on a regional seismic and sample database. The stratigraphy provides constraints on the timing and nature of the mid- to late Cenozoic differential tectonic movements that have driven major changes in sediment supply, oceanographic circulation and climate (culminating in continental glaciation). The overall context for Neogene deposition on the margin was established in the mid-Cenozoic, when rapid, km-scale differential subsidence (sagging) created the present-day deep-water basins. The Neogene is subdivided into lower (Miocene–lower Pliocene) and upper (lower Pliocene–Holocene) intervals. The lower Neogene contains evidence of early to mid-Miocene compressive tectonism, including inversion anticlines and multiple unconformities that record uplift and erosion of basin margins, as well as changes in deep-water currents. These movements culminated in a major expansion of contourite drifts in the mid-Miocene, argued to reflect enhanced deep-water exchange across the Wyville-Thomson Ridge Complex, via the Faroe Conduit. The distribution and amplitude of the intra-Miocene movements are consistent with deformation and basin margin flexure in response to enhanced intra-plate compressive stresses during a local plate reorganisation (transfer of the Jan Mayen Ridge from Greenland to Europe). The upper Neogene records a seaward tilting (<1°) of the margin from the early Pliocene, in which km-scale uplift and erosion was accompanied by increased offshore subsidence, resulting in a major seaward progradation of the shelf–slope wedge as well as deep-marine erosion during a reorganisation of bottom current patterns. The large amplitude of tilting cannot be accounted for by intra-plate stress variations, but is consistent with a dynamic topographic response to upper mantle convection, in particular edge-driven flow beneath the continental margin. Sedimentary and oceanographic changes resulting from dynamic topographic responses to the evolution of upper mantle convective flow during ocean widening may be characteristic of the development of ‘passive’ continental margins

Publisher: Geological Society of London
Year: 2005
DOI identifier: 10.1144/0061057
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:9044

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