Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2022-139
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2022-139
 
19 Apr 2022
19 Apr 2022

Rifting continents

Susanne J. H. Buiter1, Sascha Brune2,3, Derek Keir4,5, and Gwenn Peron-Pinvidic6,7 Susanne J. H. Buiter et al.
  • 1Tectonics and Geodynamics, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
  • 2GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany
  • 3Institute of Geosciences, University of Potsdam, Potsdam-Golm, Germany
  • 4Universita degli Studi di Firenze, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Florence, Italy
  • 5University of Southampton, School of Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton, UK
  • 6Geological Survey of Norway (NGU), Trondheim, Norway
  • 7Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway

Abstract. Continental rifts can form when and where continents are stretched. If the driving forces can overcome lithospheric strength, a rift valley forms. Rifts are characterised by faults, sedimentary basins, earthquakes and/or volcanism. With the right set of weakening feedbacks, a rift can evolve to break a continent into conjugate rifted margins such as those found along the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. When, however, strengthening processes overtake weakening, rifting can stall and leave a failed rift, such as the North Sea or the West African Rift. A clear definition of continental break-up is still lacking because the transition from continent to ocean can be complex, with tilted continental blocks and regions of exhumed lithospheric mantle. Rifts and rifted margins not only shape the face of our planet, they also have a clear societal impact, through hazards caused by earthquakes, volcanism, landslides and CO2 release, and through their resources, such as fertile land, hydrocarbons, minerals and geothermal potential. This societal relevance makes an understanding of the many unknown aspects of rift processes as critical as ever.

Susanne J. H. Buiter et al.

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Interactive discussion

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Susanne J. H. Buiter et al.

Susanne J. H. Buiter et al.

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Short summary
Continental rifts can form when and where continents are stretched. Rifts are characterised by faults, sedimentary basins, earthquakes and/or volcanism. If rifting can continue, a rift may break a continent into conjugate margins such as along the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In some cases, however, rifting fails, such as in the West African Rift. We discuss continental rifting from inception to break-up, focussing on the processes at play, and illustrate these with several natural examples.