Rifting in the Northern Norwegian-Greenland Sea - Thermal Tests of Asymmetric Spreading

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Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth and Planets
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Aug 10
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The analysis of heat flow, seismic, and topographic data collected in the northern Norwegian-Greenland Sea reveals an asymmetric evolution of the Eurasian and North American plates. These data are compared to predictions from three kinematic models of extension which produce asymmetry about the Knipovich Ridge: (1) uniform asymmetric pure shear, (2) lithospheric simple shear, and (3) rift/ridge jumping. The data are consistent with a range of deformation scenarios, from one ridge jump occurring at about 25 m.y. after the initiation of spreading to continuous asymmetric extension. The simple shear model can match the data only when a detachment fault dips more steeply than 45-degrees under Svalbard. Tectonic and heat flow evidence suggests that asymmetry may have evolved from a combination of all three models. When the Mohns Ridge (propagating to the east) encountered the preexisting northward trending Spitsbergen Shear Zone, the direction of ridge propagation shifted to the north, being influenced by the abrupt change in the regional stress field at the shear zone-ridge axis intersection. As a result, the nascent Knipovich Ridge entered into and propagated along the shear zone. Consequently, formerly active shear faults became the new detachment surfaces along which new crust is minted and asymmetrically extended. The high level of deviatoric stress about the Mohns and Knipovich Ridge intersection may cause a gradual eastward migration of the Knipovich Ridge, resulting in multiple zones of magma intrusion. "Off-axial" bands of high heat flow and volcanism located along the Barents Sea and Svalbard margin, along the Yermak Plateau, and on continental Svalbard just southeast of the Yermak Plateau may be evidence for this migration. Propagation from the Nansen Ridge may have entered the same shear zone from the north, explaining the creation of the small Molloy Ridge and off-axis volcanism on the Yermak Plateau.


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