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Reversible subsidence on the North West Shelf of Australia

Gurnis, Michael and Kominz, Michelle and Gallagher, Stephen J. (2020) Reversible subsidence on the North West Shelf of Australia. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 534 . Art. No. 116070. ISSN 0012-821X. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2020.116070.

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The Northwest Shelf (NWS) of Australia is characterized by offshore basins associated with Permian and Jurassic rifting and was only slowly subsiding by the Neogene. International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 356 targeted this region by coring four sites in the Northern Carnarvon and Roebuck Basins and two sites in the Perth Basin to the south on the Australian western margin. We use detailed lithological, physical property and age data with paleobathymetric interpretations, to infer tectonic subsidence apparently confined to the NWS that reverses (uplifts) with about the same amplitude and rate as an earlier subsidence event. About 300 m of tectonic subsidence occurred over one million years from 6 to 5 million years ago and then reverses when 300 m of tectonic uplift occurred from 2 to 1 Ma. The along strike extent of this subsidence pattern is ∼ 400 km. The similarity of magnitude and duration of the subsidence and uplift phases suggest that the subsidence is reversible. The results cannot be explained by glacial eustatic variability nor can the uplift event be attributed to sediments filling the accommodation space generated earlier. Reversible subsidence is a key fingerprint of dynamic topography. Although the rates of subsidence and uplift are roughly ∼ 300 m/Myr, a substantial portion of the changes occur over less than 1 Myr and the rates inferred from a detailed least squares analysis can reach up to about 500 m/Myr. These rates are incompatible with dynamic topography associated with motion of Australia over large-scale convection (10 to 40 m/Myr) or that associated with instability of the base of the lithosphere (<15 m/Myr). The vertical motions are too large to be associated with simple flexure of a plate and plate buckling in that the required amplitudes would lead to permanent deformation of the plate. A new geodynamic mechanism is required to fit the observations.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Gurnis, Michael0000-0003-1704-597X
Gallagher, Stephen J.0000-0002-5593-2740
Additional Information:© 2020 Elsevier B.V. Received 13 April 2019, Revised 2 November 2019, Accepted 4 January 2020, Available online 17 January 2020. USSSP supported the participation of MG and MK on IODP Expedition 356 as well as with post expedition awards. MG was also supported by the NSF through EAR-1645775. Funding to SJG was provided by the Australian IODP office and the ARC Basins Genesis Hub (IH130200012). The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Australian Research CouncilIH130200012
Subject Keywords:tectonic subsidence; passive margins; dynamic topography plate flexure
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200117-125222436
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Michael Gurnis, Michelle Kominz, Stephen J. Gallagher, Reversible subsidence on the North West Shelf of Australia, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 534, 2020, 116070, ISSN 0012-821X, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:100796
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:17 Jan 2020 21:03
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 17:56

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