Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

S.B. Nielsen

Extensional basin evolution in the presence of small-scale convection: Subsidence and stratigraphy

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearch

  • Kenni Dinesen Petersen, Denmark
  • S.B. Nielsen
  • O.R. Clausen
  • Randell Alexander Stephenson, Denmark
  • Hans Thybo, Institut for Geologi og Geografi, Københavns Universitet, Denmark
  • Taras Gerya
The plate model of Parsons & Sclater provides a generally accepted, quantitative framework for the thermal
subsidence-evolution in extensional basins. It predicts an asymptotic evolution of the geotherm towards a steady
state, featuring a constant lithospheric thickness and ceased subsidence. This is formulated by assuming that the
temperature at a fixed depth (the asymptotic thickness of the lithosphere) is constant. It is implicitly assumed,
that this temperature is maintained by sub-lithospheric, small-scale convection, but the dynamics, controlling this
process, are not considered.
Here, we apply a two-dimensional, numerical, thermo-mechanical model of the lithosphere and upper mantle to
asses the effects of small-scale convection. Given a particular mantle rheology, our model features such convection,
and, over time, the horizontally averaged geotherm converges towards a self-consistent, quasi-steady-state.
Extension of the convecting equilibrium model causes the formation of rifts or continental margins which,
posterior to extension, cools and subsides as predicted by the plate model. However, in contrast to the plate model,
the ascended asthenosphere is not instantaneously decoupled from the convecting upper mantle below, and cooling
is thus not entirely conductive above the former base of the lithosphere. This causes significantly protracted
cooling and subsidence.We show that our model features improved consistency with subsidence data from several
rifted margins and intracontinental basins. Furthermore, our model shows that the long-term subsidence pattern
in the presence of small-scale convection is superimposed by vertical movements at periods of 2-20 Myr due to
convection dynamics at the base of the lithosphere. We show that these movements are a recurrent and potential
cause for the development of stratigraphic sequences at similar time scale. Since such sequences are commonly
assumed to be caused by eustatic variations, our results have important implications for inferences on the latter.
Our results are furthermore important for the assessment of hydrocarbon potential of sedimentary basins in terms
of stratigraphic correlation and thermal maturation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year3 Apr 2011
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2011

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

ID: 41855292