Breakup Without Borders

  • Relative plate motions during continental rifting result from the interplay of local with far-field forces. Here we study the dynamics of rifting and breakup using large-scale numerical simulations of mantle convection with self-consistent evolution of plate boundaries. We show that continental separation follows a characteristic evolution with four distinctive phases: (1) an initial slow rifting phase with low divergence velocities and maximum tensional stresses, (2) a synrift speed-up phase featuring an abrupt increase of extension rate with a simultaneous drop of tensional stress, (3) the breakup phase with inception of fast sea-floor spreading, and (4) a deceleration phase occurring in most but not all models where extensional velocities decrease. We find that the speed-up during rifting is compensated by subduction acceleration or subduction initiation even in distant localities. Our study illustrates new links between local rift dynamics, plate motions, and subduction kinematics during times of continental separation.

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Author details:Martina M. UlvrovaORCiD, Sascha BruneORCiDGND, Simon WilliamsORCiD
Title of parent work (English):Geophysical research letters
Subtitle (English):How Continents Speed Up and Slow Down During Rifting
Publisher:American Geophysical Union
Place of publishing:Washington
Publication type:Article
Date of first publication:2018/12/26
Completion year:2019
Release date:2021/04/07
Page number:10
First page:1338
Last Page:1347
Funding institution:European Union under ERC [617588]; European Union under Marie Sklodowska Curie grant agreement [753755]; German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) [57319603]; Helmholtz Association through the Young Investigators Group CRYSTALS [VH-NG-1132]; Australian Research CouncilAustralian Research Council [IH130200012, DP180102280]
Organizational units:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Geowissenschaften
DDC classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 55 Geowissenschaften, Geologie / 550 Geowissenschaften
Peer review:Referiert
Publishing method:Open Access / Bronze Open-Access