The crustal structure and tectonic development of the continental margin of the Amundsen Sea Embayment, West Antarctica: implications from geophysical data


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Karsten.Gohl [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

The Amundsen Sea Embayment of West Antarctica represents a key component in the tectonic history of Antarctic-New Zealand continental breakup. The region played a major role in the plate-kinematic development of the southern Pacific from the inferred collision of the Hikurangi Plateau with the Gondwana subduction margin at approximately 110-100 Ma to the evolution of the West Antarctic Rift System. However, little is known about the crustal architecture and the tectonic processes creating the embayment. During two RV Polarstern expeditions in 2006 and 2010 a large geophysical dataset was collected consisting of seismic-refraction and reflection data, ship-borne gravity and helicopter-borne magnetic measurements. Two P-wave velocity-depth models based on forward travel-time modelling of nine ocean bottom hydrophone recordings provide an insight into the lithospheric structure beneath the Amundsen Sea Embayment. Seismic-reflection data image the sedimentary architecture and the top-of-basement. The seismic data provide constraints for 2-D gravity modelling, which supports and complements P-wave modelling. Our final model shows 10 - 14 km thick stretched continental crust at the continental rise that thickens to as much as 28 km beneath the inner shelf. The homogenous crustal architecture of the continental rise, including horst and graben structures are interpreted as indicating that wide-mode rifting affected the entire region. We observe a high-velocity layer of variable thickness beneath the margin and related it, contrary to other “normal volcanic type margins”, to a proposed magma flow along the base of the crust from beneath eastern Marie Byrd Land – West Antarctica to the Marie Byrd Seamount province. Furthermore, we discuss the possibility of upper mantle serpentinization by seawater penetration at the Marie Byrd Seamount province. Hints of seaward-dipping reflectors indicate some degree of volcanism in the area after break-up. A set of gravity anomaly data indicate several phases of fully developed and failed rift systems, including a possible branch of the West Antarctic Rift System in the Amundsen Sea Embayment.



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ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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Published
Eprint ID
35404
DOI 10.1093/gji/ggu118

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Kalberg, T. and Gohl, K. (2014): The crustal structure and tectonic development of the continental margin of the Amundsen Sea Embayment, West Antarctica: implications from geophysical data , Geophysical Journal International, 198 (1), pp. 327-341 . doi: 10.1093/gji/ggu118


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