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Lizarralde, Daniel, 1997

Crustal structure of rifted and convergent margins: The United States east coast and Aleutian margins

Bibliographic Reference

Lizarralde, Daniel, 1997, Crustal structure of rifted and convergent margins: The United States east coast and Aleutian margins: Cambridge, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ph.D. dissertation, 228 p., illust.


In this thesis we investigate the crustal structure across the U.S. East Coast rifted margin and the convergent margin of southwestern Alaska using modern, deep-penetrating marine seismic reflection/refraction data. We consider U.S. East Coast margin transects along the shelf offshore Georgia and across the mid-Atlantic margin near Chesapeake Bay. Results presented in this thesis constrain the landward extent of rift-related magmatic emplacement. We find that magmatic intrusion and underplating of pre-existing continental crust occurs primarily in extended crust and that crustal extension is focused in a 75-km-wide region beneath the shelf and slope. The crust thinned by 50 to 80% within this interval and then seafloor spreading began with an unusually large volume of igneous crust production. The initial volcanic extrusives were emplaced subaerially and are now present beneath the sediments in a thick seaward-dipping wedge. We use post-stack depth migration to image this wedge and use the resulting image to consider the early subsidence of the margin. The geometry of the subaerially extruded rift volcanics suggest that the margin subsided rapidly once volcanism began. We infer from the subsidence, the along-margin distribution of magmatic material, and the across-margin localization of magmatic emplacement and deformation that the U.S. East Coast rift volcanics had an anomalously-hot mantle source whose distribution beneath the lithosphere prior to rifting was long (the length of the margin) but not deep. We speculate that the distribution of this material was controlled by topography at the base of the lithosphere inherited from the Paleozoic collision of North America and Africa. Our analysis of the southwestern Alaska convergent margin is based on data from the 1994 Aleutian seismic experiment. We consider transects across the westernmost Alaska Peninsula margin, where subduction is occurring beneath proto-continental crust composed of oceanic-arc terranes accreted in the Cretaceous, and across Bristol Bay in the back arc region where the crust has undergone a number of geologic events since accretion. Across the Peninsula, we find that the velocity structure of the accreted terranes differs little from that of the Cenozoic Aleutian oceanic-arc crust west of the Peninsula determined along another transect of this experiment. The accreted oceanic-arc terranes are considerably more mafic than continental crust and the process of accretion has apparently not modified the bulk composition of these terranes toward that of average continental crust. The geology of the Bristol Bay region suggests that the crustal components here had an origin similar to that of the Alaska Peninsula margin - that is, accreted terranes. We find, however, that the crust beneath Bristol Bay has a typically continental velocity structure.

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