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Russian Geology and Geophysics

2010 year, number 1


E.V. Artyushkov
United Institute of Physics of the Earth, Russian Academy of Sciences, 10 ul. Bol. Gruzinskaya, Moscow, 123810, Russia
Keywords: Basin subsidence, eclogitization, lithosphere softening, petroleum potential, North Chukchi Basin
Pages: 48-57


The large North Chukchi Basin in the northeastern Eurasian shelf is filled with up to 22 km of sediments, which is far thicker than filling a basin upon oceanic crust would require. The basin sedimentation began 380 Myr ago, and about 16 km of sediments have been deposited for the past 125 Myr, long after the oceanic crust would have completed its subsidence. This fact is in favor of the continental instead of oceanic crust origin. Rapid basin subsidence appears to be driven by a mechanism other than crustal stretching as the latter has no evidence over the greatest part of the basin area. The suggested basin formation model implies a transformation of gabbro into denser eclogite in the lower crust and related contraction of mafic rocks. To sustain consolidated crust beneath 22 km thick sediments, the layer of dense eclogites under the granitic layer must be at least ~25 km thick. The presence of basement flexures formed at several stages of the basin evolution indicates a considerable loss of lithospheric rigidity under the effect of fluid infiltration from small mantle plumes. The fluids catalyzed the eclogitization and thus increased the subsidence rate. Rapid subsidence apparently occurred in Barremian-Albian time, when the basin had accumulated up to 11.5 km of sediments. Besides the Early Cretaceous event, there were possibly several older events of rapid subsidence. This basin subsidence history, along with the evidence of steep lithospheric flexure, is a known feature of large petroleum basins. Therefore, the North Chukchi Basin may be expected to be an oil and gas producer.