A. G. Rodnikov, N. A. Sergeyeva, and L. P. Zabarinskaya
Geophysical Center, Russian Academy of Sciences
The present-day period of the Earth science evolution is marked by a particular interest in investigating the deep structure of the Earth associated with a necessity to solve theoretical geodynamic problems, to predict deep-seated mineral deposits, to predict and mitigate the hazards of natural disasters, especially of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and to study the problems associated with the protection of the environment.
Based on these geotraverses, in 2000 the workers of the Geophysical Center, Russian Academy of Sciences, created a database which includes the deep geological and geophysical sections of the lithosphere in the transition zone from the Asian Continent to the Pacific ocean and the primary geological and geophysical data such as the results of bathymetric measurements, gravity and magnetic surveys, heat flow measurements, deep seismic sounding, tomographic studies, evidence of earthquakes and the results of studying the fine structure of the Benioff zone, some data on the chemistry of the rocks and their age, and the results of deep-sea drilling and dredging [Rodnikov et al., 2000]. The results of this work are included into the Project "Global Geoscience Transects'' of the International Program "Lithosphere'' and are available in the Internet: http://www.wdcb.ru/GCRAS/traverse.html.
The crustal thickness in the Okhotsk Sea varies from 35-40 km under Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands to 8-10 km under the Kuril Basin [Avdeiko et al., 2000; Crustal Structure..., 1964; Structure and Dynamics..., 1996; Zlobin, 1987]. Sediments fill individual deep-sea basins with their thickness as great as 12 km (Deryugin Basin). This layer is composed mainly of sedimentary and partially of volcanogenic rocks of Late Cretaceous-Cenozoic age. During the late Cretaceous epoch sediments accumulated in rifts, this process being accompanied by a significant volcanic activity. Deep-sea basins were formed and filled with volcanogenic-siliceous deposits grading upward to more shallow-sea sediments [Structure and Dynamics..., 1996]. Most of the sedimentary basins originated during the Cenozoic time. The deposits of that time, covering the underlying formations as a continuous mantle, contain almost all of the oil- and gas-bearing rocks of the Okhotsk Sea.
The origin of this basin, like of all other back-arc basins, was associated with the formation of rifts, the traces of which are usually expressed in the highly dissected topography of the acoustic basement, clearly depicted in seismic profiles [Baranov et al., 1999; Piip, 1996; Structure and Dynamics..., 1996]. The high heat flow values restricted to the axial zone of the basin [Smirnov, 1986] served as another basis for recognizing an axial spreading zone in the central part of the basin.
The outer and inner island arcs are separated by a trough having the fault contacts with the former. The trough is 45-60 km wide and is filled with Neogene and Quaternary tuffaceous and sedimentary formations. The thickness of sediments in the axial zone is more than 3 km, though their bottom was not recorded by a seismic survey. The origin of volcanogenic rocks in the trough's sediments is believed to have been related to the formation of a rift which is now covered by the sediments. The crustal thickness under the trough is as small as 20 km.
The crustal structure of the Okhotsk Sea region differs from the adjacent continental and oceanic regions, the crust of which is characterized by a comparatively flat topography of the M surface, along which boundary velocities vary from 7.8 to 8.1 km/s [Deep Seismic Sounding..., 1987]. Under the deep-sea basins the M surface rises and the crustal thickness decreases accordingly, the rises correlating with large depressions in the M surface topography.
In the Pacific Ocean adjacent to the Japan Island Arc the crustal thickness is about 8 km, the M surface is topographically rough, its seismic velocity being 8.2 km/s. A 400-meter section of oceanic sediments exposed on the marginal rise of the ocean floor ranges from Cretaceous to Recent. The upper 300 m consist of argillaceous–diatomaceous and tuffaceous-diatomaceous oozes with interlayers of Late Miocene-Quaternary age. The amounts of siliceous radiolaria remains and clay material increase with depth. At a depth of 360 m the siliceous-argillaceous sediments are replaced abruptly by pelagic mud. The fact that merely 18 m of pelagic mud had accumulated from the Middle Miocene to the Early Paleogene indicates that the sedimentation rate there was very low at that time. The pellagic mud is underlain by siliceous rocks which were dated tentatively as Cretaceous. The siliceous rocks were often found to be underlain by tholeitic basalts [Larson et al., 1975].
The structural features found in the region of the Japan Sea have a distinct expression in the deep structure of the lithosphere. The deep-sea basins correlate with the M surface rises and with the low values of seismic velocities, the rises correlating with the growths of the crustal thickness (30-35 km) and normal velocities on the M surface.
During the Neogene magmatic activity took place only in the region of the maximum rise of the 1200o C isotherm, that is, in the Japan Sea and in the western part of Honshu I. In the Pacific Ocean (Northwest Pacific Basin) magmatic activity (tholeiitic basalt flow) was found to have occurred mainly more than 100 million years ago. The position of this isotherm is not controlled by the type of the crust and is roughly similar in the Primorskii Krai and in the Pacific. It is remarkable that the most tectonically active region - the Japan Sea and the Japan Island Arc - is located presently between the continental and the oceanic block of the tectonosphere. The low-velocity region (asthenospheric lens), recorded in the transitional zone, can be interpreted as a hot diapir rising toward the crust, which seems to control the endogenic situation in this zone.
The North China Plain is a constituent of the old Sino-Korean platform which was transformed to a craton 1900-1700 million years ago [Huang, 1984]. Its Middle and Late Proterozoic rocks form a transition-type cover, its Cambrian and Ordovician rocks being represented by shallow-sea carbonate deposits. A break of sedimentation has been recorded from the Late Ordovician to the Early Carboniferous (ca. 80 million years), which was marked by the renewal of endogenic activity expressed in the emplacement of kimberlite bodies. During the Middle and Late Carboniferous there was a sea transgression with the accumulation of paralic coal formations. Fluvial-lacustrine deposits accumulated during the Early Permian, and the continental conditions with the accumulation of red beds existed during the Late Permian-Triassic. The Indosinian movements (T2 -J1 ) were accompanied by the emplacement of basic, alkaline, and mainly acid igneous rocks. The Yanshang movements (J1 -K2 ) were distinguished by the intrusion of granite bodies and kimberlites and by the extrusion of calc-alkalic rocks.
The best studied area of the North China Plain is the Bohai Gulf, the most important oil and gas province in East China. The graben-shaped structures, developed in the Paleogene deposits, originated [Li, 1982] as a result of crustal extension produced by the rise of the mantle material. The depth to the M surface is ca. 30 km there, and is as deep as 35 in the surrounding regions. The extension of the crust during the Paleogene resulted in the eruptions of basalt magma, the lava flows of which are found in most of the rift zones, where they occur, together with sedimentary rocks, as Eocene and Oligocene formations.
The East China Sea basin was formed on the highly denudated surface of Mesozoic and Paleozoic rocks [Li, 1982]. The lower part of the sequence accumulated in a Paleogene rift. The middle sequence accumulated in the Miocene and is as thick as 5000 m. The upper part of the section is composed of flat-lying Pliocene and Pleistocene deposits. The basement of the basin is broken by faults that originated during the Caledonian orogeny. Some of the Early Paleozoic faults were reactivated during the Paleogene phase of rifting. Intensive movements along the faults took place in the Miocene. The magnitudes of displacement along the faults bounding the troughs were as great as several kilometers.
Okinawa Trough is a modern, still developing rift system [Letouzey and Kimura, 1985], bounded by Cenozoic faults which are still active. The central part of the trough is a recent rift system bounded by pull-apart faults and filled with recent basic lavas. Recent faults are widely developed in the central part of the trough. The trough includes a central graben, 20-50 km wide, enclosed into a wider graben measuring up to 200 km across. The development of the grabens was accompanied by magmatic activity. The rhyolite, andesite, and basalt samples dredged from the floor of the trough are not older than 1 Ma [Letouzey and Kimura, 1985]. The crust is very thin, merely ca. 17 km.
West Philippine Basin was generally produced during the Eocene time. As follows from the analysis of magnetic lineations [Hilde and Uyeda, 1983], the basin originated as a result of back-arc spreading along the NW-striking Central Fracture Zone of the Philippine Sea. The floor of the basin is made up of tholeiitic basalt covered by volcanogenic sedimentary rocks [Geotraverse..., 1991].
Parece Vela Basin is believed [Mrozowski and Hayes, 1979] to have been produced in the course of back-arc spreading that occurred in the Philippine Sea in the Early Oligocene–Middle Miocene epoch. The axis of this spreading zone is the Parece Vela Rift. The floor of the basin is composed of tholeiitic basalt covered by a thin layer of volcanogenic sedimentary rocks. Samples of dunite, harzburgite, lherzolite, wehrlite, anorthosite, troctolite, and olivine gabbro were dredged from the western side of the Parece Vela Rift from a depth of 6 km, and ferrous, high-Ti oceanic tholeiites with a slightly elevated alkalinity, from a depth of 4 km [Shcheka et al., 1986].
Mariana Island Arc consists of the West Mariana Ridge, Mariana Trough, and Mariana Ridge. The Mariana Trough was formed roughly 6 million years ago. The axis of the trough is traced by an active rift with a width of 10-15 km and a relative depth of 1-2 km. The rift is filled with tholeiitic basalt covered by silt, siltstone, and volcanic sand. The basement of the trough consists of various gabbroids penetrated by drill holes [Hussong et al., 1981]. The Earth's crust is 5-8 km thick there.
Mariana Trench has a depth of 8.6 km, where it was crossed by the geotraverse, and is almost devoid of sediments. Two holes drilled at depths of 6450 and 7030 m penetrated the rocks less than 150 m thick. The upper 20-meter sequence consists of the Late Pleistocene diatomaceous–siliceous ooze with volcanic sand, resting on an olistostrome containing Oligocene to Cretaceous organic remains. Apart from the sedimentary rocks, the dredges contained fragments of metabasics, metadiabase, and gabbroids. The samples dredged from the trench slopes also included Miocene limestones and siliceous-argillaceous deposits, phosphate breccias [The Geology..., 1980], harzburgites, serpentinites, lherzolites, gabbro, and volcanic rocks ranging from basalt to dacite [Bloomer and Hawkins, 1983].
Magellan Seamounts were investigated during the cruises of R/V Akademik Nesmeyanov, R/V Akademik Keldysh, and R/V Conrad [Smith et al., 1989; Vasiliev et al., 1985]. Olivine-plagioclase basalts, agglomerate lavas, breccias, and tuffs of basic composition were dredged from the southeastern and southern slopes of the seamounts at depths of 1400 and 4800 m. The basalts dredged by the R/V Conrad were dated 120 Ma for the samples from Himu Seamount and 100 Ma for the samples from Hemler Guyot [Smith et al., 1989]. The DSDP Hole 452 drilled from R/V Glomar Challenger where the geotraverse crossed the oceanic side of the Mariana Trench penetrated 25 m of Neogene-Quaternary pelagic mud which had been deposited, after a long break in sedimentation, on a Late Cretaceous sequence of argillite, chert, radiolarite, and porcellanite [Hussong et al., 1981].
The asthenosphere is located at a depth of about 30 km under the Miocene Basin of Parece Vela, and the top of a low-velocity layer was located at a depth of about 50 km under the Eocene Basin of West Philippine [Abe and Kanamori, 1970; Seekins and Teng, 1977; Shiono et al., 1980].
Like in the case of the other marginal seas, the Philippine Sea region is marked by a certain correlation between the deep structure of the upper mantle and that of the surface geological formations. The more elevated is the asthenosphere, the higher is the heat flow and the younger are the deep-sea basins and sedimentary basins in the region of the Philippine Sea. The depth of the asthenosphere is 10 km under the Mariana Trough with its recent tectonomagmatic activity, 30 km under the Miocene Basin of Parece Vela, and 50-80 km under the Eocene Basin of West Philippine. The asthenosphere resides in a depth interval of 50-70 km under the North China Plain with its oil and gas sedimentary basins, which was reactivated during the Cenozoic.
These common features seem to reflect the common formation mechanism of the Philippine Sea basins in the course of the different-age processes of back-arc spreading, complicated by channelized rising fluid melt flows [Rodkin and Rodnikov, 1996].
A distinctive feature of the transitional zone between the Eurasian continent and the Pacific Ocean is the presence of an asthenospheric layer in the upper mantle and the rising of the diapirs of a hot anomalous mantle material, which controlled the formation of the sedimentary basins of the marginal seas. There is an obvious correlation among the geological features, tectonomagmatic activity, and the structure of the upper mantle. The tectonically active regions, such as the island arcs and the rifts of the marginal seas, correlate with a thick, clearly expressed magma-generating asthenosphere.
The asthenospheric rises are marked on the Earth's surface by rift formations and mainly tholeiitic magma flows. They reside in extension zones and develop in regions of a thinner lithosphere and high heat flow.
This study proved a correlation between the heat flow and tectonomagmatic activity [Grachev, 2000; Smirnov, 1986]. It is expressed in the growth of heat flow in the younger tectonic zones caused by the intrusion of asthenospheric diapirs into the lithosphere, involving tectonomagmatic reworking. The more elevated is the asthenosphere, the higher is the heat flow and the younger are the tholeiites covering the deep-sea basins of the marginal seas. The asthenosphere resides in a depth interval of 50-80 km under the old Paleogene deep-sea basins of the marginal seas, such as the West Philippine Basin, at about 30 km under the Neogene basins, such as the Parece Vela Basin in the Philippine Sea or the Kuril Basin in the Okhotsk Sea, and at a depth of merely 20-10 km under the Pliocene-Quaternary and recent inter-arc basins, causing the breaks of the lithosphere, the formation of rifts, basalt lava flows, and hydrothermal activity. Hydrothermal activity is restricted to the rifts of the inter-arc troughs, such as the Mariana and Okinawa Troughs and the Kuril Basin, where the asthenosphere is most highly elevated. The following sequence of events has been derived: the upwelling of the asthenosphere toward the base of the island arc crust - breaks of the lithosphere with the formation of inter-arc troughs - the formation of magma chambers in the crust and mantle - the development of rifts with a tholeiitic magma flow and hydrothermal sulfide deposition.
The sedimentary basins of the marginal seas are distinguished by their anomalous structure compared to the other regions. Their typical features are the localization of diapirs under sedimentary basins, rifting or spreading centers at their bases, active volcanism during the early history of their formation, associated with hydrothermal activity and sulfide deposition, and the high heat flow caused by the rise of the asthenosphere toward the surface. It appears that asthenospheric diapirs involving the partial melting of the rocks operated as conduits channeling hot mantle fluids from the asthenosphere to the sedimentary basins [Rodnikov et al., 2001].
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