Understanding the break-up of the Atlantic



Understanding the break-up of the Atlantic

Participants of the MagellanPlus workshop. Photo: Jan Steffen/GEOMAR

30 May 2018 / Kiel. About 60 million years ago, when the Atlantic was considerably smaller than today, a huge lava plateau, the North Atlantic Igneous Province, formed in its north. The area of this plateau was about three and a half times that of modern Germany. Later tectonic processes broke up this plateau again. The last remains include the impressive basalt structures of Fingal's Cave on the Scottish island of Staffa or Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Exploring this lava plateau could provide information on what processes occurred when the ocean basin broke up and how they affected the climate, which warmed by five to six degrees during that time.

This week, more than 40 scientists from nine countries met at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel for a MagellanPlus workshop to discuss new research projects around the North Atlantic Igneous Province. The aim of the workshop was to prepare drilling proposals for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). “We have a a good data basis because the Ocean Drilling Program, a predecessor program of the IODP, has already undertaken drilling expeditions in the 1980s and 1990s, which dealt with the break-up of the Atlantic basin,” explains Prof. Dr. Christian Berndt from GEOMAR, who organized the workshop. Since those expeditions, many new geophysical data from the North Atlantic have been obtained, which allow new insights into the old samples and enable new research approaches. “The workshop was very productive and we discussed a whole series of new ideas, which now have to be put into concrete proposals in international cooperation," says Professor Berndt.

The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) explores earthquakes, landslides, volcanism, plate tectonics and deep underground life by deep drilling into the ocean floor. It mainly uses the US drillship JOIDES RESOLUTION and the Japanese drillship CHIKYU. Together with its predecessors, the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP, 1966-1983), the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP, 1983-2003) and the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP, 2003-2013), it is the world's longest active geoscience research program.