Articles | Volume 4, issue 2
Research article
26 Nov 2013
Research article |  | 26 Nov 2013

Full-fit reconstruction of the Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay

M. Hosseinpour, R. D. Müller, S. E. Williams, and J. M. Whittaker

Abstract. Reconstructing the opening of the Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay between Greenland and North America remains controversial. Recent seismic data suggest that magnetic lineations along the margins of the Labrador Sea, originally interpreted as seafloor spreading anomalies, may lie within the crust of the continent–ocean transition. These data also suggest a more seaward extent of continental crust within the Greenland margin near Davis Strait than assumed in previous full-fit reconstructions. Our study focuses on reconstructing the full-fit configuration of Greenland and North America using an approach that considers continental deformation in a quantitative manner. We use gravity inversion to map crustal thickness across the conjugate margins, and assimilate observations from available seismic profiles and potential field data to constrain the likely extent of different crustal types. We derive end-member continental margin restorations following alternative interpretations of published seismic profiles. The boundaries between continental and oceanic crust (COB) are restored to their pre-stretching locations along small circle motion paths across the region of Cretaceous extension. Restored COBs are fitted quantitatively to compute alternative total-fit reconstructions. A preferred full-fit model is chosen based on the strongest compatibility with geological and geophysical data. Our preferred model suggests that (i) the COB lies oceanward of magnetic lineations interpreted as magnetic anomaly 31 (70 Ma) in the Labrador Sea, (ii) all previously identified magnetic lineations landward of anomaly 27 reflect intrusions into continental crust and (iii) the Ungava fault zone in Davis Strait acted as a leaky transform fault during rifting. This robust plate reconstruction reduces gaps and overlaps in Davis Strait and suggests that there is no need for alternative models proposed for reconstructions of this area including additional plate boundaries in North America or Greenland. Our favoured model implies that break-up and formation of continent–ocean transition (COT) first started in the southern Labrador Sea and Davis Strait around 88 Ma and then propagated north and southwards up to the onset of real seafloor spreading at 63 Ma in the Labrador Sea. In Baffin Bay, continental stretching lasted longer and actual break-up and seafloor spreading started around 61 Ma (chron 26).