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|Rift dynamics during the formation of the Carolina Trough and Blake Plateau (Blake)
In this project scientists will investigate the deep layers of sediments and bedrock offshore the southeastern United States to better understand how the Atlantic Ocean started opening approximately 190 million years ago. In Early Jurassic, the Atlantic Ocean began to form as the continental margin of the southeastern United States rifted from northwest Africa. Rifting occurred by mechanical stretching of the crust and lithosphere, potentially with extensive heating and volcanism, before the Mid-Atlantic Ridge started to accommodate extension by seafloor spreading. Old fault lines and sutures of the Appalachian basement may have been reactivated during this continental stretching phase, and lava flows may have filled the early rift basin. Whether this episode of volcanism was a cause or consequence of the breakup between North America and Africa is not yet clear. This question can be addressed with new marine geophysical data that will cover parts of the margin from the continental shelf to the adjacent abyssal plain, a distance of approximately 400 km. With seismic images of the deep sediments and basement, scientists can determine the relationship between basement faults and lava flows on the Carolina Trough, along the coast of the Carolinas, and Blake Plateau, farther south along Georgia and Florida. These two sections of the Atlantic continental margin are of particular interest because the Blake Plateau is much wider than the Carolina Trough. Either the Blake Plateau forms a block of continental crust that did not stretch much during continental rifting, or it is a plateau that largely consists of volcanic rock that formed during rupture of the supercontinent Pangea. The marine geophysical expedition will involve the R/V Marcus Langseth and ocean-bottom seismometers that will be used to record seismic waves to map subseafloor basement structure. The investigating team will invite students and early-career scientists from other universities to participate in the expedition, and two short courses will be organized to engage early-career scientists in the analysis and interpretation of the data. Although this study focuses on the southeastern United States margin, results will inform ongoing and future studies at other continental margins worldwide.
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