Development of numerical methods to determine the litospheic structure combining geopetential, litosthatic and heat transport equations. Application to the Gibraltar arc system.

  1. Fullea Urchulutegui, Javier
Supervised by:
  1. Hermann Zeyen Director
  2. Manel Fernandez Ortiga Director

Defence university: Universitat de Barcelona

Fecha de defensa: 25 January 2008

  1. Josep Gallart Muset Chair
  2. Alejandro Marcuello Pascual Secretary
  3. Ana María Negredo Moreno Committee member
  4. Jaume Vergés Masip Committee member
  5. María del Carmen Comas Minondo Committee member

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 220202 DIALNET


Detailed modelling of the present-day lithospheric structure is of paramount importance to understand the evolution of the Earth in the context of plate tectonics. The objectives of this thesis are twofold: the development of numerical methods to determine the lithospheric structure combining geopotential, lithostatic and heat transport equations, and the application of these methods to the study area, the Gibraltar Arc System region (GAS). The final product should be a useful 3D tool to analyse the lithosphere integrating, in a consistent manner, the thermal field, elevation, geoid and gravity anomalies, and SHF. In this sense, four main goals are:1) Development of a numerical code to compute Bouguer anomalies from publicly available satellite-derived free air data in both continental and marine areas. 2) Development of a 1D method to calculate a first order lithospheric structure using elevation and geoid anomaly as input data.3) Development of a 3D interactive code to perform lithospheric forward modelling, integrating SHF, gravity and geoid anomalies, and elevation.4) Obtain a 3D image of the lithosphere geometry over the study region independent from seismic tomography in order to improve our knowledge of the deep, present day, lithospheric structure of the GAS region, and discuss the different geodynamic models proposed to explain its origin. FA2BOUG is a FORTRAN 90 code to compute Bouguer anomaly specially intended to work with global elevation and free air data bases (Chapter 3). The program is designed to calculate in both continental and oceanic areas. Chapter 4 deals with a method based on the combination of elevation and geoid anomaly data that allows for a rapid calculation of the crustal and lithospheric thickness over large regions under the assumption of local isostasy, thermal steady state, linear vertical density gradient for the crust, and temperature dependent mantle density.Chapter 5 presents GEO3Dmod, a computer program intended to perform interactive 3D lithospheric forward modelling, integrating SHF, elevation, gravity anomaly and geoid anomaly. The program consists of two modules. The first one (GEO3Dmod) resolves the direct problem, i.e. given a lithospheric model (a set of layers with different properties), it calculates the 3D thermal and density structure of the lithosphere and the associated geophysical observables. The second one (GEO3Dmod_INTF) is a graphical interface designed to visualize and modify the lithospheric structure according to the differences between calculated and measured geophysical observables. To test the program, we used a number of synthetic models composed of crust, lithospheric mantle, sea water and asthenosphere.In Chapter 6 we applied GEO3Dmod to the Gibraltar Arc System region using as initial geometry of the Moho and the LAB the 1D model obtained using elevation and geoid anomaly (Chapter 4). The application of the model to the GAS region yields a crustal and lithospheric structure that coincides fairly well with previous works. The whole Atlas Mountains seem to be affected by lithospheric thinning (60-90 km), but this feature is more conspicuous in its southern part, the Anti Atlas Variscan domain, and to the north, in the Middle Atlas. The eastern branch of the Atlas does not seem to be much affected by this lithospheric thinning. The strongest LAB topography gradients are present in the northern, southern and eastern limits of the thick lithosphere imaged beneath the Gulf of Cadiz, the Betics and the Rif (170-210 km). These regions coincide with the contact between the Iberian Variscan Massif and the Betic chain in the north, the contact between the Middle Atlas and the external Rif domain to the south, and the contact between the Betic-Rif orogen and the Alboran Basin to the east. The rough topography of the LAB suggests that the mantle contribution to the isostatic balance is not negligible, as confirmed by the isostatic residual anomaly map calculated for the GAS region. The presence of the SW-NE oriented zone of lithospheric thinning affecting the High, Anti and Middle Atlas and extending to the eastern Alboran Basin, as well as the parallel thick lithosphere zone extending along the western Betics, eastern Rif, Rharb Basin, and Gulf of Cadiz, put severe constraints on the proposed geodynamic models. Slab tear and asymmetric roll-back could be a plausible mechanism to explain the lithospheric thickening, whereas lateral asthenospheric flow would cause the lithosphere thinning. An alternative mechanism responsible for the lithospheric thinning could be the presence of a hot magmatic reservoir derived from a deep ancient plume centred in the Canary Island, and extending as far as Central Europe.