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Sci Rep. 2017 Jul 28;7(1):6822. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-06170-7.

Constraining shifts in North Atlantic plate motions during the Palaeocene by U-Pb dating of Svalbard tephra layers.

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Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED), University of Oslo, PO Box 1028 Blindern, 0315, Oslo, Norway.
Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED), University of Oslo, PO Box 1028 Blindern, 0315, Oslo, Norway.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA, 02139-4307, USA.
California Volcano Observatory, Volcano Science Center, United States Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Mail Stop 910, Menlo Park, CA, 94025, USA.
Store Norske Spitsbergen Grubekompani, Postboks 613, 9171, Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway.
The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), P.O.Box 156, 9171, Longyearbyen, Norway.
DougalEarth Ltd., 31 Whitefields Crescent, Solihull, B91 3NU, UK.
Volcanic Basin Petroleum Research (VBPR AS), Forskningsparken, Gaustadalléen 21, 0349, Oslo, Norway.


Radioisotopic dating of volcanic minerals is a powerful method for establishing absolute time constraints in sedimentary basins, which improves our understanding of the chronostratigraphy and evolution of basin processes. The relative plate motions of Greenland, North America, and Eurasia changed several times during the Palaeogene. However, the timing of a key part of this sequence, namely the initiation of compression between Greenland and Svalbard, is currently poorly constrained. The formation of the Central Basin in Spitsbergen is inherently linked to changes in regional plate motions, so an improved chronostratigraphy of the sedimentary sequence is warranted. Here we present U-Pb zircon dates from tephra layers close to the basal unconformity, which yield a weighted-mean 206Pb/238U age of 61.596 ± 0.028 Ma (2σ). We calculate that sustained sedimentation began at ~61.8 Ma in the eastern Central Basin based on a sediment accumulation rate of 71.6 ± 7.6 m/Myr. The timing of basin formation is broadly coeval with depositional changes at the Danian-Selandian boundary around the other margins of Greenland, including the North Sea, implying a common tectonic driving force. Furthermore, these stratigraphic tie points place age constraints on regional plate reorganization events, such as the onset of seafloor spreading in the Labrador Sea.

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