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

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

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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
Rocks, edited by E. Brown and B.W. Chappell, p. 281-290.
Weaver, S.D., Storey, B.C., Pankhurst, R.J., Mukasa, S.B., DiVenere, V., and Bradshaw, J.D.
(1994), Antarctic-New Zealand rifting and Marie Byrd Land lithospheric magmatism linked
to ridge subduction and mantle plume activity. Geology, v. 22, p. 811-814.
Winberry, J.P. and Anandakrishnan, S. (2004), Crustal structure of the West Antarctic rift system
and Marie Byrd Land hotspot. Geology, v. 32, p. 977-980.
Wysoczanski, R.J., Gamble, J.A., Kyle, P.R., and Thirlwall, M.F. (1995), The petrology of lower
crustal xenoliths from the Executive Committee Range, Marie Byrd Land Volcanic Province,
West Antarctica. Lithos, v. 36, p. 24-36.

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