Rift kinematics preserved in deep-time erosional landscape below the northern North Sea

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Thilo Wrona , Alexander C Whittaker, Rebecca E. Bell, Robert Leslie Gawthorpe, Haakon Fossen, Christopher Aiden-Lee Jackson , Marit S. Bauck


Our understanding of continental rifting is, in large parts, derived from the stratigraphic record. This record is, however, incomplete as it does not often capture the geomorphic and erosional signal of rifting. New 3D seismic reflection data reveals a Late Permian-Early Triassic landscape incised into the pre-rift basement of the northern North Sea. This landscape, which covers at least 542 km2, preserves a drainage system bound by two major tectonic faults. A quantitative geomorphic analysis of the drainage system reveals 68 catchments, with channel steepness and knickpoint analysis of catchment-hosted palaeo-rivers showing that the landscape preserved a >2 Myrs long period of transient tectonics. We interpret that this landscape records punctuated uplift of the footwall of a major rift-related normal fault (Vette Fault) at the onset of rifting. The landscape was preserved by a combination of relatively rapid subsidence in the hangingwall of a younger fault (Øygarden Fault) and burial by post-incision sediments. We show how and why erosional landscapes are preserved in the stratigraphic record, and how they can help us understand the tectono-stratigraphic evolution of ancient continental rifts.




Earth Sciences, Geology, Geomorphology, Geophysics and Seismology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Tectonics and Structure


Erosion, North Sea, Fault growth, Landscape, Transient tectonics, 3D seismic data


Published: 2021-06-25 19:51

Last Updated: 2021-11-27 06:48

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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