Is there a Speed Limit for the Thermal Steady-State Assumption in Continental Rifts?

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GC009577. This is version 1 of this Preprint.

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Authors

Esther Heckenbach , Sascha Brune , Anne C Glerum , Judith Bott

Abstract

The lithosphere is often assumed to reside in a thermal steady-state when quantitatively describing the temperature distribution in continental interiors and sedimentary basins, but also at active plate boundaries. Here, we investigate the applicability limit of this assumption at slowly deforming continental rifts. To this aim, we assess the tectonic thermal imprint in numerical experiments that cover a range of realistic rift configurations. For each model scenario, the deviation from thermal equilibrium is evaluated. This is done by comparing the transient temperature field of every model to a corresponding steady-state model with identical structural configuration. We find that the validity of the thermal steady-state assumption strongly depends on rift type, divergence velocity, sample location and depth within the rift. Maximum differences between transient and steady-state models occur in narrow rifts, at the rift sides, and if the extension rate exceeds 0.5-2~mm/a. Wide rifts, however, reside close to thermal steady-state even for high extension velocities. The transient imprint of rifting appears to be overall negligible for shallow isotherms with a temperature less than 100$^\circ$C. Contrarily, a steady-state treatment of deep crustal isotherms leads to underestimation of crustal temperatures, especially for narrow rift settings. Thus, not only relatively fast rifts like the Gulf of Corinth, Red Sea, and Main Ethiopian Rift, but even slow rifts like the Kenya Rift, Rhine Graben, and Rio Grande Rift must be expected to feature a pronounced transient component in the temperature field and to therefore violate the thermal steady-state assumption for deeper crustal isotherms.The lithosphere is often assumed to reside in a thermal steady-state when quantitatively describing the temperature distribution in continental interiors and sedimentary basins, but also at active plate boundaries. Here, we investigate the applicability limit of this assumption at slowly deforming continental rifts. To this aim, we assess the tectonic thermal imprint in numerical experiments that cover a range of realistic rift configurations. For each model scenario, the deviation from thermal equilibrium is evaluated. This is done by comparing the transient temperature field of every model to a corresponding steady-state model with identical structural configuration. We find that the validity of the thermal steady-state assumption strongly depends on rift type, divergence velocity, sample location and depth within the rift. Maximum differences between transient and steady-state models occur in narrow rifts, at the rift sides, and if the extension rate exceeds 0.5-2~mm/a. Wide rifts, however, reside close to thermal steady-state even for high extension velocities. The transient imprint of rifting appears to be overall negligible for shallow isotherms with a temperature less than 100$^\circ$C. Contrarily, a steady-state treatment of deep crustal isotherms leads to underestimation of crustal temperatures, especially for narrow rift settings. Thus, not only relatively fast rifts like the Gulf of Corinth, Red Sea, and Main Ethiopian Rift, but even slow rifts like the Kenya Rift, Rhine Graben, and Rio Grande Rift must be expected to feature a pronounced transient component in the temperature field and to therefore violate the thermal steady-state assumption for deeper crustal isotherms.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.31223/X5QK62

Subjects

Earth Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematics

Keywords

Earth Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematics

Dates

Published: 2021-03-01 01:18

Last Updated: 2021-03-01 09:18

License

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Conflict of interest statement:
None.

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