The tectonic evolution and importance of Marie Byrd Land, West Antarctica

argumentative Essay
3042 words
3042 words

1. Introduction
Marie Byrd Land (MBL) is a massif within West Antarctica that is of critical importance in understanding the evolution of the West Antarctic Rift System (WARS). Although the WARS is comparable in size other rift systems, it is poorly understood due to extensive ice cover (LeMasurier, 2008). MBL contains exposures which inform on the behavior of the WARS over time (Cande et al., 2000; Steinberger et al., 2004) and the potential for subglacial volcanism associated with the system to destabilize the West Antarctic ice sheet, thus causing an instantaneous rise in sea level (Blankenship et al, 1993).
2. The backbone of the Antarctic continent
The Transantarctic Mountains (TM) extend for over 3000 km across the center of the continent and delineate the two major tectonic provinces of Antarctica: the stable East Antarctic craton and the WARS (Stump, 1995; Elliot, 2013). The formation of the TM initiated in the Neoproterozoic as the supercontinent Rodinia rifted along their current location. During the Cambrian, this environment evolved into a convergent plate boundary (Elliot, 2013). The associated orogenic event is known by different names regionally: the Ross orogeny in Antarctica, the Delamerian orogeny in SE-Australia, and the Tyennan orogeny in Tasmania (Federico et al. 2006; Stump, 1995). Evidence exists that in Northern Victoria Land, the Ross orogeny was the result of oblique subduction of the Pacific plate which was followed by the opening and closure of a back-arc basin (Federico et al., 2006).
Weathering and erosion of the Ross orogenic belt led to the deposition and accumulation of quartoze sands. The accretion of various terranes and emplacement of igneous plutonic rocks with related volcanic...

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...ogenic magmatism related to Antarctic-New Zealand rifting. Proceedings of the Second Hutton Symposium on the Origin of Granites and Related
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In this essay, the author

  • Explains that marie byrd land (mbl) is a massif within west antarctica that is of critical importance in understanding the evolution of the wars.
  • Explains that the present day wars is comprised of four geophysically distinct microplates that have been experiencing intracontinental deformation from jurassic to present: marie byrd land, thurston island, antarctic peninsula, and the ellsworth-whitmore mountains.
  • Explains that the rock exposures within mbl have relationships which elucidate the tectonic evolution of west antarctica, and more importantly the present day wars.
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