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Authors: Ligi, M.* 
Bonatti, E.* 
Bortoluzzi, G.* 
Cipriani, A.* 
Cocchi, L.* 
Caratori Tontini, F.* 
Carminati, E.* 
Ottolini, L.* 
Schettino, A.* 
Title: Birth of an ocean in the Red Sea: Initial pangs
Journal: Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems 
Series/Report no.: 8/13 (2012)
Publisher: American Geophysical Union
Issue Date: 18-Aug-2012
DOI: 10.1029/2012GC004155
Keywords: Red Sea
Gravity and Magnetics
magma genesis and partial melting
mantle processes
transition from continental to oceanic rift
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.03. Geodesy::04.03.04. Gravity anomalies 
04. Solid Earth::04.04. Geology::04.04.04. Marine geology 
04. Solid Earth::04.05. Geomagnetism::04.05.04. Magnetic anomalies 
04. Solid Earth::04.07. Tectonophysics::04.07.04. Plate boundaries, motion, and tectonics 
Abstract: We obtained areal variations of crustal thickness, magnetic intensity, and degree of melting of the sub- axial upwelling mantle at Thetis and Nereus Deeps, the two northernmost axial segments of initial oceanic crustal accretion in the Red Sea, where Arabia is separating from Africa. The initial emplacement of oceanic crust occurred at South Thetis and Central Nereus roughly $2.2 and $2 Ma, respectively, and is taking place today in the northern Thetis and southern Nereus tips. Basaltic glasses major and trace element com- position suggests a rift-to-drift transition marked by magmatic activity with typical MORB signature, with no contamination by continental lithosphere, but with slight differences in mantle source composition and/or potential temperature between Thetis and Nereus. Eruption rate, spreading rate, magnetic intensity, crustal thickness and degree of mantle melting were highest at both Thetis and Nereus in the very initial phases of oceanic crust accretion, immediately after continental breakup, probably due to fast mantle upwelling enhanced by an initially strong horizontal thermal gradient. This is consistent with a rift model where the lower continental lithosphere has been replaced by upwelling asthenosphere before continental rupturing, implying depth-dependent extension due to decoupling between the upper and lower lithosphere with man- tle-lithosphere-necking breakup before crustal-necking breakup. Independent along-axis centers of upwell- ing form at the rifting stage just before oceanic crust accretion, with buoyancy-driven convection within a hot, low viscosity asthenosphere. Each initial axial cell taps a different asthenospheric source and serves as nucleus for axial propagation of oceanic accretion, resulting in linear segments of spreading.
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