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Persistent thermal activity at the Eastern Gulf of Aden after continental break-up

Nature Geoscience volume 1, pages 854858 (2008) | Download Citation



During the early stages in the formation of divergent margins, the lithosphere experiences large changes in temperature that can determine its strength and influence magma generation1,2. This, in turn, may play a key role in continental rifting, break-up, and subsequent subsidence. Here we present surface heat-flow data from the Eastern Gulf of Aden, which is a recently formed divergent margin between Africa and Arabia3. In the deeper parts of the margin the heat flow is high and constant, but it decreases abruptly near the shelf-slope. Our numerical models, in conjunction with geophysical and geological constraints, suggest that the data are best explained by a thermal anomaly in the upper mantle that has persisted after continental break-up. We suggest that this anomaly is related to small-scale convection that occurred during and after rifting. Similar anomalies could have characterized other divergent margins: for example, the presence of shallow-water sediments deposited after the opening of the Atlantic Ocean4,5,6 hints at lower subsidence than would have occurred in the absence of persistent thermal anomalies.

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This work was funded by DyETI, GDR Marge and INSU. IFREMER provided marine facilities. We thank A. Al Laski from the Sultan Qaboos University, H. Al Azri from the Directorate of Mines in Muscat and the crew of R/V ‘Le Suroît’. This is IPGP contribution no. 2426.

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  1. Geosciences Marines, IPGP-CNRS, 4 place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France

    • Francis Lucazeau
    • , Alain Bonneville
    • , Bruno Goutorbe
    • , Doga Düsünur
    •  & Patrick Tuchais
  2. Laboratoire de Tectonique, CNRS Université P. et M. Curie Paris 6, Case 129, 4 place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France

    • Sylvie Leroy
    • , Frédérique Rolandone
    • , Elia d’Acremont
    • , Louise Watremez
    • , Philippe Huchon
    •  & Nicolas Bellahsen
  3. Earthquake Monitoring Centre, Sultan Qaboos University, Al-Khod 123, Sultanate of Oman

    • Khalfan Al-Toubi


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F.L. and S.L. were principal investigators of the ENCENS-FLUX survey. F.L. developed the numerical modelling and processed the heat-flow data reduction. B.G. processed oil exploration data. S.L., E.D. and L.W. processed seismic data. A.B., B.G., P.T., F.L., S.L. and E.D. prepared and operated the heat-flow instrument. All authors participated in the ENCENS-FLUX cruise (except K.A.T.), discussed the scientific issues and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Francis Lucazeau.

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