Seismic evidence for plume-derived volcanism during formation of the continental margin in southern Davis Strait and northern Labrador Sea

Joanna Gerlings, Thomas Funck, H. Ruth Jackson, Keith E. Louden, Frauke Klingelhöfer

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The crustal structure in the southern Davis Strait and the adjacent ocean-continent transition zone in NE Labrador Sea was determined along a 185-km-long refraction/wide-angle reflection seismic transect to study the impact of the Iceland mantle plume to this region. A P-wave velocity model was developed from forward and inverse modelling of dense airgun shots recorded by ocean bottom seismographs. A coincident industry multichannel reflection seismic profile was used to guide the modelling as reflectivity could be identified down to Moho. The model displays a marked lateral change of velocity structure. The sedimentary cover (velocities 1.8-3.9 km s -1) is up to 4 km thick in the north and thins to 1 km in the south. The segment of the line within southern Davis Strait is interpreted to be of continental character with a two-layered 13-km-thick crust with P-wave velocities of 5.6-5.8 and 6.4-6.7 km s -1 in the upper and lower crust, respectively. The crust is underlain by a 2- to 4-km-thick high-velocity layer (7.5 km s -1). This layer we interpret as underplated material related to the Iceland plume. The southern segment of the line in Labrador Sea displays a 2-km-thick layer with a velocity of 4.5 km s -1. This layer can be correlated to a well about 100 km to the west of the line, where Palaeocene basalts and interbedded sediments were drilled. Underneath is a 12-km-thick crust with a 2-km-thick upper layer (5.8-6.6 km s -1) and a 10-km-thick lower layer (6.8-7.2 km s -1). This crust is interpreted to be of oceanic character. S-wave modelling yields a Poisson's ratio of 0.28 for the lower crust, compatible with a gabbroic composition. The igneous crust is 5 km thicker than normal oceanic crust. We suggest that the increased magma production was created by buoyancy-driving flow. We propose a model in which initial seafloor spreading occurred between Labrador and West Greenland, when the Iceland plume arrived in the area at ∼62 Ma and caused enhanced magma production. Shortly afterwards (chron 27-26), plume material was channelled southward underplating part of Davis Strait and forming basaltic flows interbedded with sediment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)980-994
Number of pages15
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


  • Continental margins: divergent
  • Continental margins: transform
  • Crustal structure
  • Hotspots

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 3: Energy Resources


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