The Gulf of Aden: Structure and Evolution of a Young Ocean Basin and Continental Margin

Cochran, James R.

New marine geophysical data are used to describe the structure and history of the Gulf of Aden. Magnetic anomaly data shows seafloor spreading magnetic anomalies on Sheba Ridge from the axial anomaly to anomaly 5 (10 m.y. B.P.) between the Owen fracture zone and 45°E and to anomaly 2' (3 m.y. B.P.) or anomaly 3 (4 m.y. B.P.) west of 45°E. The data does not support the two episodes of seafloor spreading recently proposed. Landward of the seafloor spreading magnetic anomalies is a magnetic quiet zone of uncorrelatable anomalies. The magnetic quiet zone boundary is also a structural boundary effectively marking the edge of Sheba Ridge, with deeper basement lacking a significant topographic gradient found on the landward side. A magnetic quiet zone is found not only where Sheba Ridge splits continental lithosphere but also on East Sheba Ridge where the ridge splits the old oceanic lithosphere of the Owen and Somali basins. There the position occupied by the continental margin within the gulf is marked by nonmagnetic ridge complexes that stretch from the continents to the Owen fracture zone. The magnetic quiet zone boundary is not an isochron in either the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea, suggesting that significant horizontal motions can occur prior to the initiation of seafloor spreading. The offset on the Dead Sea Rift is used to estimate that from 80 to 160 km of opening, amounting to between 65% and 200% extension of the initial rift valley, occurred in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea prior to the establishment of a mid-ocean ridge. It is suggested that the development of a new ocean basin occurs in two stages. The first involves diffuse extension over an area perhaps 100 km wide in a rift valley environment without an organized spreading center. This is followed by concentration of the extension at a single axis and the beginning of true seafloor spreading.

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Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Marine Geology and Geophysics
Published Here
June 11, 2019