College of Science & Engineering
Continental margins develop when continents split up and move away from each other during a rifting stage, prior to a new ocean forming between them. During the rifting stage, the continental margin is covered by volcanic and sedimentary rocks, and the deep crust heats up. The goal of this project is to understand the coupling between volcanism and deep crustal flow. The research will address the thermomechanical behavior of continental rifts through numerical analysis. Specifically, the goal is to understand how the downward vertical transport of material (i.e. material that fills sedimentary basins during extension, including the deposition of dense volcanic rocks) interacts with the upward vertical transport of deep crustal material into space created by upper crust extension. The researchers intend to fully explore how different densities and viscosities of the deep crust impact continental rifts, one ancient representation of which, the Midcontinent Rift System (MRS), is preserved in Minnesota. The MRS is an excellent example of a continental rift that did not reach completion (sea floor spreading), and therefore provides a unique glimpse into the different stages of rift development. In an effort to understand the physics of rifting and flow of the deep crust during extension, this study includes a systematic exploration of the density-viscosity parameter space of the deep crust as well as other crustal and mantle layers.