Nowhere on the present-day Earth can the transition from a continental to an oceanic rift be observed and studied better than in the Red Sea region, where three rifts in different stages of evolution meet in a triple point located in the Afar region. A thermal and/or compositional mantle plume may have risen from the upper mantle below Afar already at ~30 Ma, and may have triggered, at least in part, the rifting process. The axial area of the rifts is marked by intense seismicity. While the East African is a fully continental rift, the Gulf of Aden rift experienced oceanic crust accretion between Arabia and Somalia starting already at 17 Ma with a progressive westward propagation that impacted against Africa in the Afar Triangle starting at <1 Ma. The axial zone of oceanic crustal accretion in the Gulf of Aden is segmented by several small (<30 km) offsets, including two major transform-fracture zones, the Socotra (offset ~50 km) and the Alula-Fartak (offset 180 km). Spreading is asymmetric, faster in the northern (Arabia) side (11–13 mm/a) than in the southern (Somalia) side (8 mm/a). The Afar Triangle is a topographically depressed region, located between the continental blocks of Nubia, Somalia, and the Danakil Alps, that separate it from the southern Red Sea. It is an area of thin crust, seismicity related to extension, and intense intrusive and extrusive, mostly basaltic, magmatism. Intrusive basaltic magmatism appears to be important in triggering the rifting process in Afar. Northern Afar displays basaltic ranges oriented parallel to the axis of the Red Sea, such as the Erta Ale, with a crestal permanent lava lake. These ranges represent an incipient oceanic accretionary plate boundary separating Africa from Arabia. At the northern tip of Afar, the plate boundary is displaced to the axial zone of the southern Red Sea, an elongated basin oriented ~N30°W. Its southern part is characterized by an axial rift valley floored by oceanic basalt and accompanied by parallel Vine-Matthews magnetic anomalies, suggesting initial oceanic crust accretion at ~5 Ma, although alternative interpretations suggest that the entire width of the southern Red Sea is underlain by oceanic crust. Moving still farther north, the axial valley becomes discontinuous and the initial accretion of oceanic crust appears to take place in discrete cells that become younger northward. Propagation from these initial nuclei will result in a continuous axial zone of oceanic accretion. Some of these axial “deeps” are the locus of intense hydrothermal activity and metallogenesis. Moving north, the oceanic rift impacts against the Zabargad fracture zone, a major topographic-structural feature that crosses the Red Sea in a NNE direction, offsetting its axis by nearly 100 km. Zabargad island, located at the SSW end of the fracture zone, exposes a sliver of sub-Red Sea lithosphere, including mantle peridotite bodies, Pan-African granitic gneisses criss-crossed by basaltic dykes, gabbro intrusions, and a sedimentary sequence starting with pre-rift Cretaceous deposits. North of the Zabargad Fracture zone, the Red Sea lacks an axial rift valley; it probably consists of extended thinned and faulted continental crust injected by gabbros and basaltic dykes. The activation of the NNE-trending Aqaba-Dead Sea fault at about 14 Ma has deactivated rifting in the Gulf of Suez. Basalt chemistry suggests that the degree of melting of the Red Sea subaxial mantle decreases from south to north, in parallel with a decreasing spreading rate and a lesser influence of the Afar plume.

The Red Sea: Birth of an Ocean / Bonatti, Enrico; Cipriani, Anna; Lupi, Luca. - (2015), pp. 29-44. [10.1007/978-3-662-45201-1_2]

The Red Sea: Birth of an Ocean

CIPRIANI, Anna;
2015

Abstract

Nowhere on the present-day Earth can the transition from a continental to an oceanic rift be observed and studied better than in the Red Sea region, where three rifts in different stages of evolution meet in a triple point located in the Afar region. A thermal and/or compositional mantle plume may have risen from the upper mantle below Afar already at ~30 Ma, and may have triggered, at least in part, the rifting process. The axial area of the rifts is marked by intense seismicity. While the East African is a fully continental rift, the Gulf of Aden rift experienced oceanic crust accretion between Arabia and Somalia starting already at 17 Ma with a progressive westward propagation that impacted against Africa in the Afar Triangle starting at <1 Ma. The axial zone of oceanic crustal accretion in the Gulf of Aden is segmented by several small (<30 km) offsets, including two major transform-fracture zones, the Socotra (offset ~50 km) and the Alula-Fartak (offset 180 km). Spreading is asymmetric, faster in the northern (Arabia) side (11–13 mm/a) than in the southern (Somalia) side (8 mm/a). The Afar Triangle is a topographically depressed region, located between the continental blocks of Nubia, Somalia, and the Danakil Alps, that separate it from the southern Red Sea. It is an area of thin crust, seismicity related to extension, and intense intrusive and extrusive, mostly basaltic, magmatism. Intrusive basaltic magmatism appears to be important in triggering the rifting process in Afar. Northern Afar displays basaltic ranges oriented parallel to the axis of the Red Sea, such as the Erta Ale, with a crestal permanent lava lake. These ranges represent an incipient oceanic accretionary plate boundary separating Africa from Arabia. At the northern tip of Afar, the plate boundary is displaced to the axial zone of the southern Red Sea, an elongated basin oriented ~N30°W. Its southern part is characterized by an axial rift valley floored by oceanic basalt and accompanied by parallel Vine-Matthews magnetic anomalies, suggesting initial oceanic crust accretion at ~5 Ma, although alternative interpretations suggest that the entire width of the southern Red Sea is underlain by oceanic crust. Moving still farther north, the axial valley becomes discontinuous and the initial accretion of oceanic crust appears to take place in discrete cells that become younger northward. Propagation from these initial nuclei will result in a continuous axial zone of oceanic accretion. Some of these axial “deeps” are the locus of intense hydrothermal activity and metallogenesis. Moving north, the oceanic rift impacts against the Zabargad fracture zone, a major topographic-structural feature that crosses the Red Sea in a NNE direction, offsetting its axis by nearly 100 km. Zabargad island, located at the SSW end of the fracture zone, exposes a sliver of sub-Red Sea lithosphere, including mantle peridotite bodies, Pan-African granitic gneisses criss-crossed by basaltic dykes, gabbro intrusions, and a sedimentary sequence starting with pre-rift Cretaceous deposits. North of the Zabargad Fracture zone, the Red Sea lacks an axial rift valley; it probably consists of extended thinned and faulted continental crust injected by gabbros and basaltic dykes. The activation of the NNE-trending Aqaba-Dead Sea fault at about 14 Ma has deactivated rifting in the Gulf of Suez. Basalt chemistry suggests that the degree of melting of the Red Sea subaxial mantle decreases from south to north, in parallel with a decreasing spreading rate and a lesser influence of the Afar plume.
2015
3-apr-2015
The Red Sea: The Formation, Morphology, Oceanography and Environment of a Young Ocean Basin
Rasul, Najeeb M. A.; Stewart, Ian C. F.
9783662452011
Springer-Verlag
GERMANIA
The Red Sea: Birth of an Ocean / Bonatti, Enrico; Cipriani, Anna; Lupi, Luca. - (2015), pp. 29-44. [10.1007/978-3-662-45201-1_2]
Bonatti, Enrico; Cipriani, Anna; Lupi, Luca
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