A rapid method to map the crustal and lithospheric thickness using elevation, geoid anomaly and thermal analysis. Application to the Gibraltar Arc System, Atlas Mountains and adjacent zones

J. Fullea*, M. Fernàndez, H. Zeyen, J. Vergés

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

86 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We present a method based on the combination of elevation and geoid anomaly data together with thermal field to map crustal and lithospheric thickness. The main assumptions are local isostasy and a four-layered model composed of crust, lithospheric mantle, sea water and the asthenosphere. We consider a linear density gradient for the crust and a temperature dependent density for the lithospheric mantle. We perform sensitivity tests to evaluate the effect of the variation of the model parameters and the influence of RMS error of elevation and geoid anomaly databases. The application of this method to the Gibraltar Arc System, Atlas Mountains and adjacent zones reveals the presence of a lithospheric thinning zone, SW-NE oriented. This zone affects the High and Middle Atlas and extends from the Canary Islands to the eastern Alboran Basin and is probably linked with a similarly trending zone of thick lithosphere constituting the western Betics, eastern Rif, Rharb Basin, and Gulf of Cadiz. A number of different, even mutually opposite, geodynamic models have been proposed to explain the origin and evolution of the study area. Our results suggest that a plausible slab-retreating model should incorporate tear and asymmetric roll-back of the subducting slab to fit the present-day observed lithosphere geometry. In this context, the lithospheric thinning would be caused by lateral asthenospheric flow. An alternative mechanism responsible for lithospheric thinning is the presence of a hot magmatic reservoir derived from a deep ancient plume centred in the Canary Island, and extending as far as Central Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-117
Number of pages21
JournalTectonophysics
Volume430
Issue number1-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Atlas Mountains
  • Elevation
  • Geoid anomaly
  • Gibraltar Arc System
  • Lithospheric structure

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