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Structure and evolution of the Baikal rift: A synthesis

Abstract : Active continental rifts are spectacular manifestations of the deformation of continents but are not very numerous at the surface of the Earth. Among them, the Baikal rift has been extensively studied during the last decades. Yet no simple scenario explains its origin and development because the style of rifting has changed throughout its ∼30 Myr history. In this paper, we use forward and inverse models of gravity data to map the Moho and lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary in three dimensions. We then integrate these new results with existing geophysical and geological data on the Baikal rift structure and dynamics, and propose a scenario of its evolution. Earthquake depths, mantle xenoliths, heat flow, and seismic and gravity models advocate for a normal to moderately thinned continental lithosphere and crust, except beneath the Siberian craton, which exhibits a >100-km-thick lithosphere. Relatively thin lithosphere (70–80 km) is found east and south of the rift system and is in spatial connection with the Hangai-Hövsgöl region of anomalous mantle in Mongolia. From top to bottom, the rift structure is asymmetric and appears strongly controlled by the geometry of the suture zone bounding the Siberian craton. Moreover, the mode of topography support changes significantly along the length of the rift: mountain ranges south and north of the rift are underlain by negative Bouguer anomalies, suggesting deep crustal roots and/or anomalous mantle; rift shoulders in the center of the rift seem to result from flexural uplift. The commonly assumed “two-stage” rift evolution is not corroborated by all stratigraphic and seismic data; however, it seems clear that during the Oligocene, an “early stage,” which might be dominated by strike-slip tectonics instead of pure extension, created primitive basins much different from the present ones. Most of the “true” rift basins seem to have initiated later, during the Late Miocene or Pliocene. This kinematic change from strike-slip to extensional tectonics in the Baikal rift is part of a more general kinematic reorganization of Asia and can be associated with the rapid growth of the Tibetan plateau and the end of marginal basins opening along the Pacific boundary.
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Carole Petit, Jacques Déverchère. Structure and evolution of the Baikal rift: A synthesis. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, AGU and the Geochemical Society, 2006, 7, pp.Q11016. ⟨10.1029/2006GC001265⟩. ⟨hal-00115831⟩

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