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Plate-wide stress relaxation explains European Palaeocene basin inversions

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  • Section for Geophysics
  • Section for Marine Geology
  • Section for Paleontology and Stratigraphy
During Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic times many Paleozoic and Mesozoic rifts and basin structures in the interior of the European continent underwent several phases of inversion. The main phases occurred during the Late Cretaceous and Middle Paleocene, and have been explained by pulses of compression, mainly from the Alpine orogen. Here we show that the main phases differed both in structural style and cause. The Cretaceous phase was characterized by narrow uplift zones, reverse activation of faults, crustal shortening, and the formation of asymmetric marginal troughs. In contrast, the Middle Paleocene phase was characterized by domal uplift of a wider area with only mild fault movements, and formation of more distal and shallow marginal troughs. A simple flexural model explains how domal, secondary inversion follows inevitably from primary, convergence related inversion upon relaxation of the in-plane tectonic stress. The onset of relaxation inversions was plate-wide and simultaneous, and may have been triggered by stress changes caused by elevation of the North Atlantic lithosphere by the Iceland plume or the drop in NS convergence rate between Africa and Europe.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature
Volume435
Pages (from-to)195-198
Number of pages4
ISSN0028-0836
Publication statusPublished - 2005

    Research areas

  • intra-plate deformation, flexure, in-plane stress, lithosphere, inversion

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