Tag Archives: Mesozoic

Global Paleoshoreline data

Together with former Ph.D. student Logan Yeo, we’ve reverse-engineered a set of global paleoshoreline compilations by Golonka et al. (2006) [1] and Smith et al. (1994) [2] and taken them back from the age of “dark data” being only published in analogue form, to fully digital versions. The paleoshoreline models are made available publicly in different formats, ready to be reconstructed with GPlates using different plate models. The data is published on the web alongside the paper (in press) in the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences (Heine, Yeo & Muller: Evaluating global paleoshoreline models for the Cretaceous and Cenozoic, Aust. J. Earth Sciences, in press) and they show the evolution of land area over time from ~150 Ma to the present according to the two different paleoshoreline estimates.

The files are available on my GitHub page here in *.gpml, *.geojson and *.shp format and can be viewed online. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be possible to embed the map on wordpress.com – I originally envisaged some funky webX.X embedded mapping here, but no. Instead web1.0 style links to follow for a sneak peek and some screenshots below:

  1. Golonka et al. (2006) models (examples):
  2. Smith et al. (1994) models:

The rendering through GitHub is fast and allows a quick overview about the global and regional paleoshoreline locations, allowing zooming in and panning.

Paleoshorelines in the Golonka model for the 139-123 Ma time slice rendered from a geojson file live on GitHub.

Paleoshorelines in the Golonka model for the 139-123 Ma time slice rendered from a geojson file live on GitHub. The colored area inside the polygon is equivalent to interpreted land (above sealevel) in the given time interval.

Another option to access the data is to use the version on CartoDB and interactively query and alter the data.


[1] GOLONKA J., KROBICKI M., PAJAK J., VAN GIANG N. & ZUCHIEWICZ W. 2006. Global Plate Tectonics and Paleogeography of Southeast Asia. Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection, AGH University of Science and Technology, Arkadia, Krakow, Poland.

[2] SMITH A., SMITH D. G. & FURNELL B. M.1994. Atlas of Mesozoic and Cenozoic coastlines. Cambridge University Press, 112 p. Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Updated geological time scale color palettes

While it has been a little break over the summer on this blog, I have nevertheless been able to make a few updates related to the geological time color palettes (see this link for the original post). I have added the GTS2004 palettes (epochs and ages) and also the SEPM95 timescale. The color palettes (or *.cpt files) are designed for use with the Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) but can also be loaded in GPlates. On cpt-city, other formats are also available:

The gradients on cpt-city are usually available in each of the following file formats:

  • Generic Mapping Tools, GMT (cpt)
  • CSS3 gradients (c3g)
  • GIMP (ggr)
  • Gnuplot palette files (gpf)
  • POV-Ray colour map headers (inc)
  • PaintShop Pro’s native format (having the extension PspGradient), which can also be read by Photoshop (psp)
  • The SAO format DS9 (sao)
  • Scalar vector graphics gradients (svg)

Both palettes are still incomplete and require the extension back in geological time or adding eons or epochs. You can find the files on my BitBucket repository (https://bitbucket.org/chhei/gmt-cpts/). Any contribution to extend the individual files or add new timescales (or formats such as for QGIS) will be greatly appreciated!

Rift migration and asymmetric continental margins

Yesterday, our paper on rift migration and formation of asymmetric continental margins was published in Nature Communications. Using high resolution forward numerical models we investigate the influence of extension velocities on the evolution of continental rifts to passive margins. We find a strong correlation between margin width, asymmetry and extension velocity, illustrated by the conjugate South Atlantic passive margins. Our models can explain the highly asymmetric and hyperextended passive continental margins, further, we propose that large amounts of crustal material during the rift migration phase are transferred from one side of the rift to the other, challenging conventional ideas about passive margin formation. This means that large parts of the outer margins off West Africa could actually be composed of crustal material originating from the conjugate Brazilian margin.

(a–e) Fault kinematics of the model. Active faults are shown in red and inactive faults in black. Brittle faults are indicated with solid lines, ductile shear zones with dashed lines. The wide margin is formed through rift migration and sequentially active faulting towards the future ocean. Hence, thick undisturbed pre-salt sediments pre-dating break-up are predicted by our model to be deposited in the landward part of the margin (d,e). The final crustal structure of the model reproduces the strong asymmetry (f) of the conjugate Campos Basin–Angola margins (modified after ref. 5). Note that the geosection is drawn without vertical exaggeration at the same scale as the model (scale bar in the lower right corner is 50 km long). Vertical scale is in seconds two-way travel time (TWT). Source: Brune, Heine, Perez-Gussinye & Sobolev, Nature Communications (http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140606/ncomms5014/full/ncomms5014.html), licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

The GFZ Potsdam has also issued a press release related to this [in German].

Citation: Sascha Brune, Christian Heine, Marta Pérez-Gussinyé & Stephan V. Sobolev, 2014, “Rift migration explains continental margin asymmetry and crustal hyper-extension”, Nature Communications, 5, doi: 10.1038/ncomms5014. The paper is openly accessible, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Update 1 (2014-06-11):

Nature Comms’ Article metrics are a pretty cool indicator for immediate online impact (and I believe future citations). By now a few of the standard science news outlets have picked up the press releases (changing by the minute. Here’s a static (and human) collection of the news around the article (including some of the Altmetric links):

Why there is no Saharan Atlantic Ocean

Our paper “Oblique rifting along the Equatorial Atlantic ocean: Why there is no Saharan Atlantic Ocean” (Doi: 10.1130/G35082.1) is now available online, I believe a pre-issue publication listing will follow this week. We use plate kinematic and 3D numerical modelling to explain why the Equatorial Atlantic ocean formed in the Early Cretaceous time (around 120-100 Million years ago). Here’s a summary of the paper in simple terms:

Every schoolchild can recognise continents or parts of them based on their shape. But why does Italy look like a boot, why is Australia an island-like continent and what sculpted Africa’s margins? In this study we address the underlying processes that shaped Earth’s continental plates when the last era of supercontinents came to an end, between about 150 and 100 My years ago.

At the time when dinosaur evolution peaked, the southern continents were still united in the supercontinent Gondwana. However, vast continental rift systems comparable to the present East African rift, extended between present-day South America and Africa as well as within the African continent. These rifts are preserved as deep sedimentary basins in the subsurface of the African continent and along continental margins and document processes where continental crust is stretched like chewing gum. The so-called South Atlantic and West African rift systems were about to split the African-South American part of Gondwana North-South into nearly equal halfs, generating a South Atlantic and a Saharan Atlantic Ocean (see Image). In a dramatic plate tectonic twist, however, a competing rift along the present-day South American and African Equatorial Atlantic margins, won over the West African rift, causing it to become extinct, avoiding the break up of the African continent and the formation of a Saharan Atlantic ocean.

Our work elucidates the reasons behind the success and failure of these rift systems by coupling plate tectonic and advanced 3D numerical models of continental lithosphere deformation. We find that rift obliquity acts as a selector between successful and aborted rift systems, explaining why the South and Equatorial Atlantic Ocean basins formed and other rifts became aborted. Our modelling also sheds lights on the dynamics of rifting, suggesting that feedback loops caused a ten-fold acceleration in the velocities of the South American plate once the Equatorial Rift System had sufficiently weakened the last remaining continental bridge between both plates.

One hundred years after the German scientist Alfred Wegener developed first ideas of continental drift, this study provides a new keystone in understanding the rules which govern continental extension and tectonic plate motion ultimately sculpting Earth’s continents into the shapes as we recognise them today.

The  abstract of the paper:

Rifting between large continental plates results in either continental breakup and the formation of conjugate passive margins, or rift abandonment and a set of aborted rift basins. The nonlinear interaction between key parameters such as plate boundary configuration, lithospheric architecture, and extension geometry determines the dynamics of rift evolution and ultimately selects between successful or failed rifts. In an attempt to evaluate and quantify the contribution of the rift geometry, we analyze the Early Cretaceous extension between Africa and South America that was preceded by ∼20–30 m.y. of extensive intracontinental rifting prior to the final separation between the two plates. While the South Atlantic and Equatorial Atlantic conjugate passive margins continued into seafloor-spreading mode, forming the South Atlantic Ocean basin, Cretaceous African intraplate rifts eventually failed soon after South America broke away from Africa. We investigate the spatiotemporal dynamics of rifting in these domains through a joint plate kinematic and three-dimensional forward numerical modeling approach, addressing (1) the dynamic competition of Atlantic and African extensional systems, (2) two-stage kinematics of the South Atlantic Rift System, and (3) the acceleration of the South America plate prior to final breakup. Oblique rifts are mechanically favored because they require both less strain and less force in order to reach the plastic yield limit. This implies that rift obliquity can act as selector between successful ocean basin formation and failed rifts, explaining the success of the highly oblique Equatorial Atlantic rift and ultimately inhibiting the formation of a Saharan Atlantic Ocean. We suggest that thinning of the last continental connection between Africa and South America produced a severe strength-velocity feedback responsible for the observed increase in South America plate velocity.

The associated data for the plate kinematic model is available full and for free as open data from the Datahub.org pages (http://datahub.io/dataset/southatlanticrift) of my earlier South Atlantic paper in Solid-Earth.net. More detailed explanations and animations will follow later.

Lastly, here’s our guess for how the world might look liked like if a Saharan Atlantic ocean had formed:

The world as it might have looked like if the West African Rift system had been "successful" in forming a "Saharan Atlantic Ocean basin". We explain in our paper why this did not happen.

The world as it might have looked like if the West African Rift system had been “successful” in forming a “Saharan Atlantic Ocean basin”. We explain in our paper why this did not happen. Made with GPlates and image manipulation.

The world in (geological) colors

The color palettes I described in my recent post can also be used with GPlates to color loaded features. Here are three examples which use the static polygon dataset which comes with GPlates. The first is using the GTS2012 chronostratigraphic time scale to color the static polygons by epoch and fill the polygons:

The world colored by geological epoch.

The world colored by geological epoch, filling the static polygons.

The second is just using the same data set and color the line features by geological era:

Coloring the polygons by era in GTS2012 colors.

Coloring the polygons by era in GTS2012 colors.

And the last is a bit Bauhaus-y by coloring everything in black and white according to the Gee & Kent geomagnetic polarity time scale (not that this would make a lot of sense, but as we can do it…):

The world in normal polarity and reverse polarity according to the Gee & Kent geomagnetic polarity timescale.

The world in normal polarity and reverse polarity according to the Gee & Kent geomagnetic polarity timescale (using the filled static polygons).

That planet looks way to boring -  hemispherical view of the Earth colored according to a normal (white) and reverse (black) geomagnetic polarity. Again using the Gee & Kent 2007 timescale.

That planet looks way to boring – hemispherical view of the Earth with the static polygons colored according to a normal (white) and reverse (black) geomagnetic polarity. Again using the Gee & Kent 2007 timescale.

In order to color loaded features by age (and timescale) just add the colorpalettes to the “Draw style” settings (Features -> Manage colouring) like this:

The geological age color palettes can be added to the Draw style (Manage colouring).

The geological age color palettes can be added to the Draw style (Manage colouring).

Once the new colour palettes are available, they can be assigned to the individual layers either through the layer window or through “Features -> “Manage colouring” .