Introduction to the Geology of Svalbard.

H. D. Maher (9/21/98) draft version

Major geologic units: Svalbard has a very rich, a diverse and long, geologic history that makes it somewhat of a 'mecca' for geologists, a place where a great variety of geology is on display and where much can be learned. The richness is partly evident in the outlines below of major stratigraphic groups and deformation events for Svalbard. The adjacent simplified map shows the distribution of the four major geologic units:


Stratigraphic Groups for post-basement strata: (lines represent major unconformities)


Deformational episodes (from most recent to oldest):


Tertiary fold-thrust belt: A primary research interest of mine is in the deformation that effects the cover sequence and Tertiary strata. The most obvious manifestation of this event is a fold-thrust belt that parallels the western coast and is responsible for the uplift, erosion, and exposure of basement rocks along the west coast. A line demarcating the eastern edge of where these fold-thrust structures are most obvious is shown in the map below. However, Tertiary deformation also exists along the E side of the major central Tertiary basin, and along the large faults in the NE part of the island, basically spanning the width of Spitsbergen.


Tertiary plate setting: Similarities in stratigraphy and reconstructions of plate configurations prior to the development of the Norwegian-Greenland and Arctic oceanic basins clearly indicate Svalbard, on the NW corner of the Barents Shelf, was connected to the Wandel Hav basin of NE Greenland. Opening of the two oceanic basins was linked by a intracontinental, dextral transform from roughly 65 to 38 Ma, the time of formation of the fold-thrust belt (Maher & others, 1995). Thus, this orogen was linked to the opening of oceanic basins as part of a transpressional welt (Harland, 1969) that developed within a continental platform setting. The concept of decoupling (Fitch, 1972), that orogen-parallel and orogen perpendicular components of oblique plate motions were partitioned into different zones to different degrees, is crucial to understanding this orogen.


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