The variation of crustal stretching and different modes of rifting along the Australian southern continental margin

Nasim Kharazizadeh, Wouter Schellart, Joao Casal Duarte, Mike Hall

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The southern margin of Australia is a passive continental margin, formed during a Late Jurassic–Cretaceous rifting phase. The development of this passive margin is mainly associated with extensional processes that caused crustal thinning. In this work, we have measured the amount of extension and the stretching factor (β factor) across seven transect profiles approximately evenly distributed across the margin. The obtained results show that the amount of extension and the β factor along the margin vary from west to east. The lowest amount of extension, low–intermediate β factors and a very narrow margin are observed in the western part with 80 km of extension and is underlain mostly by the Archean Yilgarn Craton and the Albany–Fraser Orogen. The Gawler Craton in the centre of the south Australian margin is another region of low extension and low–intermediate β factor. The largest amount of extension (384 km) and the largest β factor (β = 1.88) are found in the eastern part of the passive margin in an area underlain by Phanerozoic Tasman Orogen units. Our results imply that there is a strong control of the age and thickness of the continental lithosphere on the style of rifting along the Australian passive margin. Rifting of old and cold lithosphere results in a narrow passive margin, with the formation of relatively few faults with relatively wide spacing, while rifting of younger, warmer lithosphere leads to wide rifting that is accommodated by a large number of faults with small spacing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-174
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2016


  • Australian southern margin
  • crust
  • extension
  • lithosphere properties
  • narrow rift
  • passive margin
  • rifting
  • wide rift
  • β factor

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