Istituto di Geoscienze e Georisorse     
Ligi M., Bonatti E., Bortoluzzi G., Cipriani A., Cocchi L., Caratori Tontini F., Carminati E., Ottolini L., Schettino A. Birth of an ocean in the Red Sea: Initial pangs. In: Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, vol. 13 (8) pp. 1 - 29. American Geophysical Union, 2012.
We obtained areal variations of crustal thickness, magnetic intensity, and degree of melting of the sub-axial upwelling mantle at Thetis and Nereus Deeps, the two northernmost axial segments of initial oceanic crustal accretion in the Red Sea, where Arabia is separating from Africa. The initial emplacement of oceanic crust occurred at South Thetis and Central Nereus roughly ∼2.2 and ∼2 Ma, respectively, and is taking place today in the northern Thetis and southern Nereus tips. Basaltic glasses major and trace element composition suggests a rift-to-drift transition marked by magmatic activity with typical MORB signature, with no contamination by continental lithosphere, but with slight differences in mantle source composition and/or potential temperature between Thetis and Nereus. Eruption rate, spreading rate, magnetic intensity, crustal thickness and degree of mantle melting were highest at both Thetis and Nereus in the very initial phases of oceanic crust accretion, immediately after continental breakup, probably due to fast mantle upwelling enhanced by an initially strong horizontal thermal gradient. This is consistent with a rift model where the lower continental lithosphere has been replaced by upwelling asthenosphere before continental rupturing, implying depth-dependent extension due to decoupling between the upper and lower lithosphere with mantle-lithosphere-necking breakup before crustal-necking breakup. Independent along-axis centers of upwelling form at the rifting stage just before oceanic crust accretion, with buoyancy-driven convection within a hot, low viscosity asthenosphere. Each initial axial cell taps a different asthenospheric source and serves as nucleus for axial propagation of oceanic accretion, resulting in linear segments of spreading.
URL: http://sites.agu.org/
Subject Red Sea
gravity and magnetics
magma genesis and partial melting
mantle processes
transition from continental to oceanic rift

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