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Rapid plate motion variations as a probe into plate boundary forces in the South Atlantic basin

Principal Investigator: Dr. Hans-Peter BungeBungeRundeI

The South Atlantic preserves a crucial archive of past plate motion due to its passive margin environment. Particularly important are rapid motion changes recorded in the spreading history of the mid-Atlantic ridge, and the Scotia and Sandwich back-arc system. Their short duration makes these changes sentive probes into the force balance of plate motion, especially for plate boundary forces, as mantle related processes evolve on longer time-scales. We will investigate the mantle/lithosphere force balance using coupled mantle circulation and neo-tectonic models. We will pay particular attantion to far-field effects which must be studied with global models to avoid influence from artificial boundary conditions. Far-field effects are expected to be relevant as indicated by prliminary modelling results suggesting that South Atlantic spreading variations are affected by near surface processes in the adjacent continents. We will assemble high-resolution (spatial and temporal) compilations of the South Atlantic spreading history in close collaboration with Prof. Dietmar Müller (Sydney), and exploit their detailed kinematic constraints to test the hypothesis that topography variations in the adjacent continents, such as the rise of the Andes or the topographic high stand of South Africa, are important factors in the tectonic evolution of the South Atlantic. Evolution of the Scotia back-arc basiin will be studied with a combination of regional and global mantle flow models. Funds from this proposal will support the training of a post-doctoral scholar. The results advanced plate reconstruction and geodynamic models will be made available to the broader SAMPLE effort.