Cretaceous ocean formation in the High Arctic

Arne Døssing*, Carmen Gaina*, H. Ruth Jackson*, Ole Baltazar Andersen*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Understanding the evolution of ocean basins is critical for studies in global plate tectonics, mantle dynamics, and sea-level through time, and relies on identifiable tectonic plate boundaries. The evolution of the 2.5 million km2 Amerasia Basin in the Arctic Ocean remains largely unsettled due to widespread overprint by the Cretaceous High-Arctic Large Igneous Province. Traces of an extinct, but deeply buried, spreading centre (herein South Amerasia Ridge, SAR) has been shown to exist in the southern part of the Amerasia Basin, in the Canada Basin. However, structural details of the SAR and, hence, the kinematic evolution of the Canada Basin, are yet to be unraveled. Based on 3D gravity inversion and the vertical gravity gradient of the latest generation of satellite gravity models, we document new structures within the Canada Basin spreading system. Our results are supported by analysis of aeromagnetic and recent marine geophysical data. Evidence is shown of consistent oblique segmentation of the SAR spreading centre in a right stepping en echelon pattern. The spreading segments are offset by northeast-trending non-transforms that are traceable throughout the oceanic crustal domain and parallel to pre-oceanic strike-slip faults in the older part of the Canada Basin. We interpret the SAR to have formed by highly oblique spreading in a northeast-southwest direction. We compare the predicted SAR basement topography with the global ridge systems and produce a detailed magnetic modelling also constrained by the basement topography. The results indicate that the SAR crust formed by a slow-to-intermediate spreading regime and that sea-floor spreading terminated during a reverse polarity chron, most likely in the Early Cretaceous. Our novel plate reconstruction model, adopting a highly oblique spreading in Canada Basin, requires a translational motion of the Alaska/Chukotka tectonic block, replacing the decades-old rotational model of the Cretaceous High Arctic.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number116552
    JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    • Amerasia Basin
    • Canada Basin
    • Cretaceous
    • Gravity inversion
    • Plate reconstructions
    • Sea-floor spreading


    Dive into the research topics of 'Cretaceous ocean formation in the High Arctic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this