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Rift Basins of Ocean-Continent Convergent Margins

Randall D. Forsythe, Karen R. Newcomb

Modern and ancient circum-Pacific convergent margins contain many examples of forearc basins where subsidence, occurring simultaneously with subduction of oceanic lithosphere, is controlled by rifting transverse to the margin. The elongate axes of these deep and narrow basins jut obliquely from the plate margin into the interior of the forearc. Similar to aulacogens, faulting and related subsidence appear greatest at their seaward limits and decreases inland. Examples from eastern Pacific forearcs suggest that localized rifting accommodates margin-parallel extension of forearc blocks that are kinematically linked to motions along major margin-parallel strike-slip fault systems. The most prominent examples of modern forearc rift basins are the Sanak and East Sanak basins o the western Alaska Peninsula subduction zone. In this region, the continental shelf is being rifted apart by a series of northwest- and northeast-trending faults. Basement-activated normal faults bounding the basins have listric geometries. Seismostratigraphic relationships within the basins indicate the protracted, synsedimentary, and active nature of faulting and basin subsidence. Along the Peru-Chile trench, two prominent rifted basins also occur: the Gulf of Guayaquil and the Gulf of Penas-Taitao basin of southern Chile. There, margin-parallel rifting controls subsidence in localized basins at the southern terminus to margin-parallel dextral fault systems. These and other examples suggest that strike-slip motion and transverse rifting of forearcs is a common phenomenon inadequately escribed by existing two-dimensional models of forearcs. Margin-parallel motions of forearc blocks can be related not only to oblique plate convergence, but also to the geometric and compositional nature of the overriding and subducted plates.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.