Late-syn- to post-rift salt tectonics on wide rifted margins—Insights from geodynamic modeling
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionTectonics. 2022, 41 (8), e2021TC007158. 10.1029/2021TC007158
Rifted margins are often associated with widespread and thick evaporite (salt) deposits and pronounced salt tectonics. The largest salt basins formed during the latest stages of rifting, immediately prior to continental breakup. Salt tectonics along these rifted margins commonly exhibit structural domains characterized by gravity-driven updip extension, translation, downdip shortening, and salt nappe advance. The precise spatial and temporal links between these structural processes, their relative contributions and dynamics are still a topic of debate on many margins. We use 2D thermo-mechanically coupled finite-element modeling of lithospheric extension to investigate the evolution of salt tectonics along wide rifted margins and the interplay between rifting and post-rift deformation. The models integrate lithospheric extension with post-rift salt tectonics using a geodynamically self-consistent approach where the geometries of the lithosphere and salt basins are not prescribed. They confirm that wide salt-bearing rifted margins are characterized by gravity-driven updip extension and downdip shortening, but also that syn-depositional salt flow and salt stretching occurs in their distal portions prior to and during continental breakup. This produces widening of the basin and emplacement of a salt nappe over newly formed oceanic crust. Post-rift updip extension is mostly balanced by downdip diapir shortening, all related to Couette flow. The salt nappe initiated by late syn-rift stretching advances further by post-rift pressure-driven Poiseuille salt flow so that its final width is a product of both processes. The results can be directly compared to examples from various salt-bearing rifted margins and improve our understanding of their enigmatic genesis and evolution.