Late Cretaceous-Cenozoic basin inversion and palaeostress fields in the North Atlantic-western Alpine-Tethys realm: implications for intraplate tectonics

Randell Stephenson* (Corresponding Author), Christian Schiffer, Alex Peace, Søren Bom Nielsen, Scott Jess

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Intraplate basin/structural inversion (indicating tectonic shortening) is a good marker of (“far-field”) tectonic stress regime changes that are linked to plate geometries and interactions, a premise that is qualitatively well-established in the literature. There is also quantitative evidence that Late Cretaceous-Palaeocene inversion of sedimentary basins in north-central Europe was explicitly driven by an intraplate, relaxational response to forces developed during rapid reconfigurations of the Alpine-Tethys (Europe-Africa) convergent plate boundary. Although with a degree of temporal ambiguity, three main periods of intraplate tectonics (marked primarily by structural inversion in initially extensional sedimentary basins) are indicated in the North Atlantic-western Alpine-Tethys realm. These are in the Late Cretaceous-Palaeocene, the Eocene-Oligocene and the Miocene. Examples recording these periods are primarily interpreted seismic reflection profiles (of varying quality and resolution) from the published literature. Additional examples where seismic data are not present, but timing constraints are robust from other observations, have also been considered. The schematic distribution and orientation of the literature-compiled intraplate inversion structures are compared to the model palaeostress fields derived from Late Cretaceous-Palaeocene, Eocene-Oligocene and Miocene tectonic reconstructions of the North Atlantic-western Alpine-Tethys realm. The modelled palaeostress fields include geopotential effects from palaeobathymetry and palaeotopography of the Earth’s surface as well as laterally variable lithosphere and crustal palaeo-thicknesses but do not include any component of the stress field produced by processes occurring at contiguous convergent plate margins. The former satisfactorily provides the background stress field of most of the Earth’s plate interiors and it is inferred that the latter is paramount in producing “stress trauma” in the interior of plates resulting in permanent intraplate deformation such as basin inversion.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103252
Number of pages80
JournalEarth Science Reviews
Early online date20 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Jun 2020


  • intraplate deformation
  • basin inversion
  • continental lithosphere
  • lithosphere stress
  • North Atlantic
  • Alpine-Tethys
  • Basin inversion
  • Alpine-Tethys belt
  • Continental lithosphere
  • Intraplate deformation
  • Lithosphere stress

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