The Rockall and the Orphan Basins of the Southern North Atlantic Ocean: Determining Continuous Basins across Conjugate Margins Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Reconstructions of the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean generally result in the Orphan Basin, offshore Newfoundland, Canada, lying approximately conjugate to the rift basins on the Irish Atlantic margin at the onset of seafloor spreading toward the end of the Early Cretaceous. Most of these plate reconstructions have involved rigid plates with plate motions based solely on the interpretation of oceanic magnetic anomalies. In particular, these reconstructions often show the Rockall Basin, west of Ireland, forming a continuous Mesozoic basin with the West Orphan Basin, offshore Newfoundland. However, more recent plate reconstructions involving deformable plates have called this conjugate relationship into question. The goal of this study is to investigate the validity of this potentially continuous basin system by reconstructing and restoring present-day seismically-constrained geological models both spatially and temporally back to their original configurations pre-rift. By comparing the reconstructions in terms of sedimentary package thicknesses and crustal thicknesses in 3D, using both rigid and deformable plate reconstructions to orient the reconstructed models, we are able to test different basin connectivity scenarios using a multidisciplinary approach. Our analysis provides subsurface geophysical support for the hypothesis that the Rockall Basin was originally conjugate to and continuous with the East Orphan Basin during Jurassic rifting, later linking to the West Orphan Basin as rifting evolved during the Early Cretaceous. This complex basin evolution example highlights the need for using 3D rifting mechanism models to properly understand the fundamental driving forces during rifting and has significant implications for assessing basin prospectivity across conjugate margin pairs.

publication date

  • May 1, 2020