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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Professor Richard Hobbs

Peace, Alexander, McCaffrey, Ken, Imber, Jonathan, van Hunen, Jeroen, Hobbs, Richard & Wilson, Robert (2018). The role of pre-existing structures during rifting, continental breakup and transform system development, offshore West Greenland. Basin Research 30(3): 373-394.

Author(s) from Durham


Continental breakup between Greenland and North America produced the small oceanic basins of the Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay, which are connected via the Davis Strait, a region mostly comprised of continental crust. This study contributes to the debate regarding the role of pre-existing structures on rift development in this region using seismic reflection data from the Davis Strait data to produce a series of seismic surfaces, isochrons and a new offshore fault map from which three normal fault sets were identified as (i) NE-SW, (ii) NNW-SSE and (iii) NW-SE. These results were then integrated with plate reconstructions and onshore structural data allowing us to build a two-stage conceptual model for the offshore fault evolution in which basin formation was primarily controlled by rejuvenation of various types of pre-existing structures. During the first phase of rifting between at least Chron 27 (ca. 62 Ma; Palaeocene), but potentially earlier, and Chron 24 (ca. 54 Ma; Eocene) faulting was primarily controlled by pre-existing structures with oblique normal reactivation of both the NE-SW and NW-SE structural sets in addition to possible normal reactivation of the NNW-SSE structural set. In the second rifting stage between Chron 24 (ca. 54 Ma; Eocene) and Chron 13 (ca. 35 Ma; Oligocene), the sinistral Ungava transform fault system developed due to the lateral offset between the Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay. This lateral offset was established in the first rift stage possibly due to the presence of the Nagssugtoqidian and Torngat terranes being less susceptible to rift propagation. Without the influence of pre-existing structures the manifestation of deformation cannot be easily explained during either of the rifting phases. Although basement control diminished into the post-rift, the syn-rift basins from both rift stages continued to influence the location of sedimentation possibly due to differential compaction effects. Variable lithospheric strength through the rifting cycle may provide an explanation for the observed diminishing role of basement structures through time.