Get access

Sedimentology of magmatically and structurally controlled outburst valleys along rifted volcanic margins: examples from the Nuussuaq Basin, West Greenland


  • Present address: DONG E & P, Agern Alle 24–26, DK-2970 Hørsholm, Denmark (E-mail:


ABSTRACT After a period of early Palaeocene faulting and uplift of the Nuussuaq Basin, West Greenland, two valley systems were incised into the underlying sediments. Incision of the older Tupaasat valley took place during a single drainage event of large water masses, which resulted in catastrophic deposition. The valley was cut along early Palaeocene NW- to SE-trending normal faults, clearly showing that the trend and the relief of the valley were structurally controlled. The valley fill is up to 120 m thick and consists of a lower part of sandstones and conglomerates deposited from catastrophic flows characterized by very high concentrations of suspended coarse-grained sediment load. Catastrophic deposition was followed by rapid decrease in flow discharge and the establishment of a lacustrine environment within the valley characterized by the deposition of heterolithic sediments. The younger Paatuutkløften valley system was mainly cut into the Tupaasat valley fill, which was completely or nearly completely eroded away in many places. The younger valley is 1–2 km wide and up to 190 m deep. Incision of the Paatuutkløften valley probably reflected renewed tectonic activity and uplift of the basin. This phase was shortly followed by rapid major subsidence. The valley-fill deposits comprise a uniform succession of fluvial and estuarine sandstones. The valley fill is topped by shoreface sandstones, which are succeeded abruptly by offshore mudstones deposited shortly before and during the initial extrusion of a thick hyaloclastite succession. The Paatuutkløften valley fill is attributed to a very rapid rise in relative sea level contemporary with extensive volcanism. It is suggested that this sequence of events coincided with the arrival of the North Atlantic mantle plume. In several respects, the early Palaeocene valley-fill deposits of the Nuussuaq Basin are different from idealized facies models for incised valley systems and represent very special cases of incised valleys. Major differences from published examples include the dominance of catastrophic deposits and indications of large changes in relative sea level of several hundreds of metres taking place rapidly in less than 1 Myr. These changes were governed by the rise of the North Atlantic mantle plume.