Max Shaw-Champion
PhD Research Student

Research Profile

PhD project (started October 2001): The three-dimensional structure and evolution of the Faroes-Scotland Ridge.

The north Atlantic Tertiary igneous province provides an excellent place to study the effects of the impact of a mantle plume. The impact of the Iceland plume caused uplift, denudation, magmatism and probably initiated continental rifting. The region around the UK offers a wealth of geological and geophysical datasets which can be used to constrain the effects of plume activity throughout the Cenozoic. Reconstructions of the lithospheric response to the underlying mantle plume can then provide important constraints for models of plume dynamics, which are at present largely theoretical.

There is a wide body of evidence to suggest that the British Isles underwent epeirogenic uplift of the order of several hundred metres in the Paleogene. It is thought that the uplift was caused by the impact of the Iceland mantle plume, and brought about by two mechanisms: transient uplift due to dynamic support of the lithosphere above the plume and permanent uplift due to thickening of the crust by magmatic underplating. Both mechanisms resulted in denudation (erosion) of up to 3 km of sedimentary cover from the British Isles and high sediment fluxes into offshore basins.

The British Cenozoic Igneous Province is the most obvious indication of plume activity in the British Isles. Geochemical analysis of the igneous rocks provides good evidence for underplating. The geographical distribution of igneous centres, from seamounts offshore NW Scotland to the island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel, gives some basic constraints to the size and planform of the mantle plume under the British Isles in the Paleocene.

The aims of this project are to try to constrain the uplift history due to underplating primarily to the North and West of Scotland, a region of continental lithosphere between the well defined Greenland-Iceland-Faroes ridge of thickened oceanic crust to the north and the British Cenozoic Igneous Province to the south. This so-called "Faroes-Scotland Ridge" is geologically important because it has acted as both as a lock-gate controlling ocean circulation patterns and also as part of the "Thulean" land bridge which allowed terrestrial animals to cross between Europe and North America.

Questions that will be addressed are:

  1. What was the timing, magnitude and distribution of the uplift?
  2. What are the relative effects of transient and permanent uplift?
  3. Is there any evidence for pulsed uplift and subsidence phases?
  4. What can be inferred about the 3D geometry of the underplate?
  5. What are the implications for models of mantle convection and melt injection?

The following main datasets will be used:

  1. A 3D seismic reflection volume covering approximately 15,000 km^2 of the Faroe-Shetland basin, and additional regional 2D lines.
  2. A database of 200 well logs from the Faroe-Shetland basin.
  3. Published wide-angle seismic data from the West and North of Scotland and the Irish Sea.
  4. BIRPS deep reflection seismic data from around the UK.
  5. onshore and offshore gravity data.

The project is being funded by BP Exploration, who are also providing seismic and well data.


University of Cambridge: 2001-
PhD Title: "The three-dimensional structure and evolution of the Faroes-Scotland Ridge."

University of Cambridge (Girton College) 1997-2001
BA/MSci Geological Sciences
MSci research project: Seismic interpretation and 2D subsidence inversion on data from the Celtic Sea Basins.