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Sea-Floor Sunday #7: Bathymetry of Northeastern Atlantic Ocean

December 16, 2007

I came across a beautiful map of a fairly large area of the northeastern Atlantic Ocean yesterday and wanted to share it for this week’s Sea-Floor Sunday.

I have a few snapshots of the map in this post, but to really appreciate the map you should go to this site and download the high-resolution version (~9 MB). That page is part of the website for IFREMER, or the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea.

sss_6d.jpgThe map at left is for context and shows the area of interest. We will be looking at the area from offshore of France, the Iberian Peninsula, and parts of northernmost Africa to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

The map below is a snapshot of the entire map area. As noted above, scroll to the bottom of this site to download the 9 MB jpeg. I especially like their use of oranges and reds for the shallowest depths in the bathymetry scale.

Note the cluster of seamounts just west of the Strait of Gibraltar. These are a northern extension of the Canary Islands volcanic chain (that are just off the map to the south). The origin of the volcanic chain is debated (hotspot/plume volcanism, zone of extensional deformation, etc.). This paper (1), which favors a hotspot interpretation, focuses on the Canary Islands themselves but also discusses the implications for the chain.

sss_6a.jpg

The other noticeable cluster of red colors just east and off-axis of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the map above are the Azores. This triangular volcanic plateau connects the Mid-Atlantic Ridge with the East Azores Fracture Zone, which runs west-to-east ultimately separating Africa and Iberia. In other words, it’s a triple junction. There are numerous papers out there about the Azores; here are just a couple I found while researching this post (2 and 3). The image below (from 3) shows the seismicity along this plate boundary. Click on it for a slightly larger image.

sss_6f.jpg

The series of images below are zoomed-in snapshots of the map. Note the broad continental shelf offshore of France in contrast to the much narrower shelf north of the Pyrenees

sss_6b.jpg

The image below is zoomed in to the northern part of the Azores triple junction.

sss_6c.jpg

The final image below shows the Strait of Gibraltar. Oooh…looks like a nice submarine fan building out into the Atlantic right out of the strait.

sss_6e.jpg

See all Sea-Floor Sunday posts here.

References

(1) Geological Magazine (1998), 135: 591-604 Cambridge University Press doi:10.1017/S0016756898001447

(2) 1998, Lourenco et al., Morpho-tectonic analysis of the Azores Volcanic Plateau from a new bathymetric compilation of the area: Marine Geophysical Researches. 10.1023/A:1004505401547

(3) Kiratzi and Papazachos, 1995, Active crustal deformation from the Azores triple junction to the Middle East: Tectonophysics Volume 243, Issues 1-2, 15, Pages 1-24 10.1016/0040-1951(94)00188-F

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2008 12:33 pm

    Dear Sir,

    Just a line to let you know how much I appreciate the detailed color maps of the North Atlantic ocean floor and continental shelves.

    Do you know where I can come by a North Atlantic map showing land surfaces (exposed continental shelves) at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch.

    Beautiful maps indeed. Thanks

  2. October 13, 2008 1:12 pm

    They are beautiful maps, make sure to visit the original site from which they come … they have more good stuff.

    Regarding your question about paleogeographic maps during the Pleistocene sea level lowstand for the North Atlantic, I can’t think of one off the top of my head. I will do some searching around but those kind of maps are typically within scientific papers.

  3. January 14, 2014 10:22 pm

    Are there high res images? I can’t see anything useful with these small pics. Cant read the legends.

    • January 18, 2014 1:09 pm

      Deborah, this post is from 2007 and it appears that link doesn’t work any more. Sorry, I have no other information about this.

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