Breakup volcanism and plate tectonics in the NW Atlantic

M. M. Abdelmalak (Corresponding Author), S. Planke, S. Polteau, E. H. Hartz, J. I. Faleide, C. Tegner, D. A. Jerram, John Millett, R. Myklebust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Passive margins are the locus of tectonic and magmatic processes leading to the formation of highly variable along-strike and conjugate margins structures. Using extensive new seismic, gravity, and magnetic datasets, complemented by seabed samples and field work, we investigate the tectonomagmatic evolution of the northwest (NW) Atlantic where breakup-related igneous rocks were emplaced during several Paleogene events associated with lithospheric stretching, continental breakup, and the formation of new oceanic basins. Interpretational methods include integrated seismic-gravity-magnetic (SGM) interpretation and seismic volcanostratigraphy. In addition, seabed and field samples were collected and analyzed to constrain the basin stratigraphy, hydrocarbon potential, and the geochronology and geochemistry of the volcanic sequences. Offshore, 2D seismic data reveal several Seaward Dipping Reflector (SDR) wedges and escarpments in the Labrador Sea, Davis Strait, and Baffin Bay. Onshore, eastward prograding foreset-bedded hyaloclastite delta deposits and overlying horizontal lava successions outcrop on Nuussuaq. These hyaloclastites and lava successions are world class analogues to the Lava Delta and Landward Flows volcanic seismic facies units identified offshore. Our mapping results document an aerial extent of the Paleogene breakup-related volcanics of 0.3 × 106 km2, with an estimated volume of 0.5–0.6 × 106 km3. Basalt samples recovered by dredging the Upernavik Escarpment have late Paleocene to/early Eocene ages, whereas the sedimentary samples provide an excellent seismic tie with the stratigraphy and the geology in this frontier area. From the integrated SGM interpretation, we identify a rapidly thinning crust and changes in top and intra-basement seismic reflection characteristics in the oceanic domain correlated with transition between different magnetic domains. The mapping results were subsequently integrated in a plate tectonic model. The plate tectonic reconstruction and basalt geochronology suggest that the majority of the volcanism in the NW Atlantic occurred between ~62 and ~58 Ma, associated with an increased spreading rate in the Labrador Sea, starting from the onset of the Selandian (~61.6 Ma). A change in the spreading direction during the Eocene (~56 Ma), synchronously with a shift of volcanic activity from the NW to the NE Atlantic, correspond to a northward drift of Greenland and the initiation of the Eurekan Orogeny. Finally, our interpretations reveal a complex rift configuration along the NW Atlantic conjugate margins both prior to and during breakup.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-296
Number of pages30
Early online date31 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

The seismic, magnetic, and gravity data presented in this study were provided by TGS. Seismic interpretation was done using HS Kingdom software. Grid interpolations and map compilations were established using Geosoft Oasis Montaj and ArcGis softwares. We would like thank Craig Magee, Alexander Lewis Peace, the Editor and the Associated Editor for helpful comments and guidance that improved the paper. We acknowledge the support from the Research Council of Norway through its Center of Excellence funding scheme, project 223272 (CEED).


  • NW Atlantic
  • Breakup-related magmatism
  • Seismic volcanostratigraphy
  • Plate tectonic reconstruction


Dive into the research topics of 'Breakup volcanism and plate tectonics in the NW Atlantic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this