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Neo-Tethys geodynamics and mantle convection: from extension to compression in Africa and a conceptual model for obduction

Abstract : Since the Mesozoic, Africa has been under extension with shorter periods of compression associated with obductionof ophiolites on its northern margin. Less frequent than “normal” subduction, obduction is a first order process that remainsenigmatic. The closure of the Neo-Tethys Ocean, by the Upper Cretaceous, is characterized by a major obduction event, from theMediterranean region to the Himalayas, best represented around the Arabian Plate, from Cyprus to Oman. These ophiolites wereall emplaced in a short time window in the Late Cretaceous, from 100 to 75 Ma, on the northern margin of Africa, in a contextof compression over large parts of Africa and Europe, across the convergence zone. The scale of this process requires anexplanation at the scale of several thousands of kilometres along strike, thus probably involving a large part of the convectingmantle. We suggest that alternating extension and compression in Africa could be explained by switching convection regimes.The extensional situation would correspond to steady-state whole-mantle convection, Africa being carried northward by alarge-scale conveyor belt, while compression and obduction would occur when the African slab penetrates the upper–lowermantle transition zone and the African plate accelerates due to increasing plume activity, until full penetration of the Tethys slabin the lower mantle across the 660 km transition zone during a 25 Myr long period. The long-term geological archives on whichsuch scenarios are founded can provide independent time constraints for testing numerical models of mantle convection andslab–plume interactions.
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Laurent Jolivet, Claudio Faccenna, Philippe Agard, Dominique Frizon de Lamotte, Armel Menant, et al.. Neo-Tethys geodynamics and mantle convection: from extension to compression in Africa and a conceptual model for obduction. Canadian journal of earth sciences, National Research Council Canada, 2016, 53 (11), pp.1-15. ⟨10.1139/cjes-2015-0118⟩. ⟨insu-01290014⟩

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