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Formation Of Sedimentary Basins Of Graben Type By Extension Of The Continental Crust
Published 1976 · Geology
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Abstract A mechanism for causing graben-like subsidence by crustal stretching in response to tension is suggested, based partly on previous hypotheses of Vening Meinesz, Artemjev and Artyushkov, Bott and Fuchs. The mechanism requires rheological subdivision of the crust into a brittle upper layer about 10–20 km thick overlying a ductile lower crust. The brittle layer responds to tension by normal faulting and wedge subsidence; the ductile layer responds by local or regional thinning and by lateral flow of material from beneath the subsiding wedge causing complementary uplift by horst formation or elastic upbending. A graben width of between 30 and 60 km is predicted in absence of basement inhomoge-neity. Computations of the energy budget indicate that sedimentary basins of more than 5 km thickness can form by the mechanism provided that water pressure reduces the friction on the faults. The mechanism can explain relatively rapid beginning and end of subsidence, and spasmodic sinking may occur. A wide variety of observed graben-like basins can be explained by the hypothesis, including classical rift valleys and the Mesozoic basins of UK and the North Sea, but it is inapplicable to broad unfaulted cratonic or shelf subsidence.