Emplacement of the Little Minch Sill Complex, Sea of Hebrides Basin, NW Scotland

Laura-Jane Fyfe* (Corresponding Author), NicK Schofield, Simon P. Holford, Dougal A Jerram, Adrian Hartley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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The Little Minch Sill Complex is comprised of a series of stacked, multi-leaved Paleocene aged dolerite sills, which have been primarily intruded into Mesozoic sedimentary rocks and Paleocene tuffs/?hyaloclastites within the Sea of Hebrides Basin, situated on the NE Atlantic margin. Two previously proposed models for the emplacement of the sill complex have opposing ideas for the location of magma input and emplacement mechanisms. Both models have been constructed using data primarily from onshore outcrops, located on the Isle of Skye, Raasay and the Shiant Isles. However, onshore outcrops only represent a quarter (1040 km2) of the entire extent of the sill complex, which is largely situated offshore. In order to understand how the sill complex as a whole was emplaced within the basin, both onshore and offshore magma transport needs to be considered. Using high resolution multibeam bathymetry data (up to 2m resolution) obtained between 2008 and 2011 along with supporting seismic reflection, sparker and pinger data, a new assessment of the offshore extent and character of the sill complex has been constructed. Mapping of large-scale relationships between intrusions and the host rock, along with morphological features such as magma lobes, magma fingers, transgressive wings, en-echelon feeder dykes and the axis of saucer/half-saucer shaped intrusions, has indicated magma flow directions within the intrusive network. Assessing the flow kinematics of the sills has provided insights into magma transport and emplacement processes offshore. Combining data from previously mapped onshore sills with data from our newly constructed model for magma emplacement offshore has allowed us to construct a new model for the emplacement of the Little Minch Sill Complex. This model demonstrates that major basin bounding faults may play a lesser role in channelling magma through sedimentary basins than previously thought. Applying the knowledge obtained from this study could further progress understanding of the effect of sill emplacement on fluid flow within volcanic rift basin worldwide, with direct impacts on the exploitation of petroleum and geothermal systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjgs2020-177
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the Geological Society
Issue number3
Early online date17 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


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