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Effects of finite rifting times on the development of sedimentary basins

Cochran, James R.

Most thermo-mechanical models for the development of sedimentary basins have assumed that the rifting responsible for the formation of the basin occurred instantaneously and have examined the post-rift development of the basin. This assumption greatly simplifies the mathematical treatment, but is not in accord with what is found in nature, where 10- to 50-m.y. rifting events commonly accompany the formation of sedimentary basins and continental margins. The effects of a finite rifting time on the development of sedimentary basins are examined using an analytic technique which allows an arbitrary rifting history in both time and space and which considers the effects of both vertical and horizontal heat transfer. This technique allows the thermal structure of the lithosphere to be calculated throughout the rifting event and thus permits the subsidence history and surface heat flow of the developing basin to be traced. The effect of a finite-duration extension event is that heat is lost during rifting increasing the syn-rift subsidence at the expense of the post-rift. Lateral heat flow, which was not included in previous studies of the effect of finite rifting times, has a significant effect on the subsidence history, distribution of sediments and thermal history. In particular, the post-rift subsidence is decreased by more than 25% for a 20-m.y. rifting event and by more than 10-15% for a rifting event as short as 10 m.y. This will significantly decrease the subsidence rates in the post-rift stage and implies that inferences concerning the structure, development and thermal history of the basin derived from using "β-curves" to interpret backstripped subsidence can be greatly in error. Variations in syn-rift sediment accumulation and lithospheric thermal structure at the end of rifting resulting from different rifting histories can interact with other factors, such as the flexural response of the lithosphere to sediment loading, to affect the final width of the basin, the total amount of sediments that accumulate and the basin stratigraphy.


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Also Published In

Earth and Planetary Science Letters

More About This Work

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