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Seismic evidence of exhumed mantle rock basement at the Gorringe Bank and the adjacent Horseshoe and Tagus abyssal plains (SW Iberia)

Abstract : The Gorringe Bank is a gigantic seamount that separates the Horseshoe and Tagus abyssal plains offshore SW Iberia, in a zone that hosts the convergent boundary between the Africa and Eurasia plates. Although the region has been the focus of numerous investigations since the early 1970s, the lack of appropriate geophysical data makes the nature of the basement, and thus the origin of the structures, still debated. In this work, we present combined P-wave seismic velocity and gravity models along a transect that crosses the Gorringe Bank from the Tagus to the Horseshoe abyssal plains. The P-wave velocity structure of the basement is similar in the Tagus and Horseshoe plains. It shows a 2.5-3.0 km-thick top layer with a velocity gradient twice stronger than oceanic Layer 2 and an abrupt change to an underlying layer with a five-fold weaker gradient. Velocity and density is lower beneath the Gorringe Bank probably due to enhanced fracturing, that have led to rock disaggregation in the sediment-starved northern flank. In contrast to previous velocity models of this region, there is no evidence of a sharp crust-mantle boundary in any of the record sections. The modelling results indicate that the sediment overlays directly serpentinite rock, exhumed from the mantle with a degree of serpentinization decreasing from a maximum of 70-80% under the top of Gorringe Bank to less than 5% at a depth of ∼20 km. We propose that the three domains were originally part of a single serpentine rock band, of nature and possibly origin similar to the Iberia Abyssal Plain ocean-continent transition, which was probably generated during the earliest phase of the North Atlantic opening that followed continental crust breakup (Early Cretaceous). During the Miocene, the NW-SE trending Eurasia-Africa convergence resulted in thrusting of the southeastern segment of the exhumed serpentinite band over the northwestern one, forming the Gorringe Bank. The local deformation associated to plate convergence and uplift could have promoted pervasive rock fracturing of the overriding plate, leading eventually to rock disaggregation in the northern flank of the GB, which could be now a potential source of rock avalanches and tsunamis.
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Submitted on : Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 5:09:21 PM
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Valentí Sallarès, Sara Martinez-Loriente, Manuel Prada, Eulalia Gracia, César Ranero, et al.. Seismic evidence of exhumed mantle rock basement at the Gorringe Bank and the adjacent Horseshoe and Tagus abyssal plains (SW Iberia). Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Elsevier, 2013, 365, pp.120-131. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2013.01.021⟩. ⟨insu-00798004⟩

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