Stratigraphy of volcanic rock successions of the North Atlantic Rifted Margin: the offshore record of the Faroe Shetland and Rockall Basins

David Jolley* (Corresponding Author), John Millett, Schofield Nick , Lena Broadley, Malcolm Hole

*Corresponding author for this work

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The integration of biostratigraphical, wireline log, geophysical and available geochronological ages has identified two principal periods of volcanism in the Faroe–Shetland and Rockall basins. The first is pre-breakup, upper Danian to lower Thanetian: in the Rockall and Faroe–Shetland basins, isolated volcanic activity from 62 Ma to 58.7 Ma is identified in areas closely linked to the SSW–NNE structural fabric of the continental margin. Volcanic activity was concentrated at basin flank fissures and localised point sources. This rift-flank volcanism led to widespread volcanic ash deposition, localised lava flow fields and the formation of igneous centres. Some of the Hebridean and onshore central complexes (e.g., Rum) were uplifted and rapidly eroded during the later pre-breakup period, while additional accommodation space was developed in the adjacent offshore basins. Onset and termination of pre-breakup volcanism is correlated to intra-plate stress regimes in Europe, following the cessation of convergence of Africa and Europe in the Danian. The second is syn-breakup, upper Thanetian to Ypresian, initiated at ca.57 Ma in the Rockall and Faroe–Shetland basins. Initial high-volume extrusive igneous successions were focussed to the W in the Faroe–Shetland Basin. In the centre and E of the Faroe–Shetland and Rockall basins, separate eruption loci developed along pre-existing lineaments either as fissure or point-sourced lava fields. Short-term cessation of eruption at ~55.8 Ma was followed by resumption of flood basalt eruptions and a shift in focus to the NW. Fluctuations in the syn-breakup eruption tempo are reflected in the formation and subsequent rejuvenation of prominent unconformities, only previously recognised as a single erosive event. The W and northward shift of eruption focus, and the eruption of mid ocean ridge basalt-type lavas in the syn-breakup period reflect the onset of lithospheric thinning in the nascent North Atlantic Rift prior to flooding of the rift and eruption of the widespread lower Ypresian Balder Formation tephras
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-88
Number of pages28
JournalEarth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
Issue number2
Early online date26 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • biostratigraphy
  • depositional sequences
  • Faroe–Shetland Basin
  • Palaeogene volcanism
  • Rockall Basin
  • volcanism
  • volcanic ash


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