EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Modelling thermal lithospheric thickness along the conjugate South Atlantic passive margins implies asymmetric rift initiation

Peter Haas1, R. Dietmar Müller2, Jörg Ebbing1, Gregory A. Houseman2,3, Nils-Peter Finger4,5, and Mikhail K. Kaban4,6
Peter Haas et al.
  • 1Institute of Geosciences, Kiel University, Kiel, Germany (
  • 2Earthbyte Group, School of Geosciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  • 3School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, Great Britain
  • 4GFZ Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany
  • 5Faculty for Earth Sciences, Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 6Schmidt Institute of Physics of the Earth, Moscow, Russia

In this contribution, we examine the evolution of the South Atlantic passive margins, based on a new thermal lithosphere-asthenosphere-boundary (LAB) model. Our model is calculated by 1D advection and diffusion with rifting time, crustal thickness and stretching factors as input parameters. The initial lithospheric thickness is defined by isostatic equilibrium with laterally variable crustal and mantle density. We simulate the different rifting stages that caused the opening of the South Atlantic Ocean and pick the LAB as the T=1330° C isotherm. The modelled LAB shows a heterogeneous structure with deeper values at equatorial latitudes, as well as a more variable lithosphere along the southern part. This division reflects different stages of the South Atlantic opening: Initial opening of the southern South Atlantic caused substantial lithospheric thinning, followed by the rather oblique-oriented opening of the equatorial South Atlantic accompanied by severe thinning. Compared to global models, our LAB reflects a higher variability associated with tectonic features on a smaller scale. As an example, we identify anomalously high lithospheric thickness in the South American Santos Basin that is only poorly observed in global LAB models. Comparing the LAB of the conjugate South American and African passive margins in a Gondwana framework reveals a variable lithospheric architecture for the southern parts. Strong differences up to 80 km for selected margin segments correlate with strong gradients in margin width for conjugate pairs. This mutual asymmetry suggests highly asymmetric melting and lithospheric thinning prior to rifting.

How to cite: Haas, P., Müller, R. D., Ebbing, J., Houseman, G. A., Finger, N.-P., and Kaban, M. K.: Modelling thermal lithospheric thickness along the conjugate South Atlantic passive margins implies asymmetric rift initiation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4877,, 2021.


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