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Cenozoic alongslope processes and sedimentation on the NW European Atlantic margin

Marine and Petroleum Geology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2005.01.008


Abstract Based on studies of sediment accumulations deposited from-and erode by-alongslope flowing ocean currents on the European continental margin from Porcupine (Ireland) to Lofoten (Norway), the evolution of the Cenozoic paleocirculation was reconstructed as part of the STRATAGEM project. There is evidence of ocean current-controlled erosion and deposition in the Rockall Trough, in the Faeroe-Shetland Channel and on the Vøring Plateau since the late Eocene, although the circulation pattern remains ambiguous. The late Palaeogene flow in the Rockall Trough was almost probably driven by southerly-derived Tethyan Outflow Water. The extent and strength of any northerly-derived flow is uncertain. From the early Neogene (early-mid-Miocene), there was a massive regional expansion of contourite drift development both in the North Atlantic and in the Norwegian-Greenland Sea. This was most probably related to the development of the Faroe Conduit, the opening of the Fram Strait and the general subsidence of the Greenland-Scotland Ridge. These may have combined to cause a considerable acceleration in the exchange and overflow of deep waters between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. An early late Neogene (late early Pliocene) regional erosional event has been ascribed to a vigorous pulse of bottom-current activity, most probably the result of a global reorganisation of ocean currents associated with the closure of the Central American Seaway. During the late Neogene, contourites and sediment drifts developed in deep-water basins, between units of glacigenic sediments as well as infill of several paleo-slide scars. These sediments were derived from areas of bottom-current erosion as well as from the development of Plio-Pleistocene prograding sediment wedges, incorporating the extensive sediment supply derived from shelf-wide ice sheets. Presently a profound winnowing prevails along the shelf and upper slope due to the inflowing currents of Atlantic water. Depocentres of sediments derived from the winnowing are located (locally) in lower slope embayments and in slide scars.

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