Variability of the geothermal gradient across two differently aged magma-rich continental rifted margins of the Atlantic Ocean: the Southwest African and the Norwegian margins
Abstract. The aim of this study is to investigate the shallow thermal field differences for two differently aged passive continental margins by analyzing regional variations in geothermal gradient and exploring the controlling factors for these variations. Hence, we analyzed two previously published 3-D conductive and lithospheric-scale thermal models of the Southwest African and the Norwegian passive margins. These 3-D models differentiate various sedimentary, crustal, and mantle units and integrate different geophysical data such as seismic observations and the gravity field. We extracted the temperature–depth distributions in 1 km intervals down to 6 km below the upper thermal boundary condition. The geothermal gradient was then calculated for these intervals between the upper thermal boundary condition and the respective depth levels (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 km below the upper thermal boundary condition). According to our results, the geothermal gradient decreases with increasing depth and shows varying lateral trends and values for these two different margins. We compare the 3-D geological structural models and the geothermal gradient variations for both thermal models and show how radiogenic heat production, sediment insulating effect, and thermal lithosphere–asthenosphere boundary (LAB) depth influence the shallow thermal field pattern. The results indicate an ongoing process of oceanic mantle cooling at the young Norwegian margin compared with the old SW African passive margin that seems to be thermally equilibrated in the present day.