Recent uplift of the Atlantic Atlas (offshore West Morocco): Tectonic arch and submarine terraces

Re-examination of marine geophysical data from the continental margin of West Morocco reveals a broad zone characterized by deformation, active faults and updoming offshore the High Atlas (Morocco margin), situated next to the Tafelney Plateau. Both seismic reflection and swath-bathymetric data, acquired during Mirror marine geophysical survey in 2011, indicate recent uplift of the margin including uplift of the basement.

This deformation, which we propose to name the Atlantic Atlas tectonic arch, is interpreted to result largely through uplift of the basement, which originated during the Central Atlantic rifting stage - or even during phases of Hercynian deformation. This has produced a large number of closely spaced normal and reverse faults, “piano key faults”, originating from the basement and affecting the entire sedimentary sequence, as well as the seafloor.

The presence of four terraces in the Essaouira canyon system at about 3500 m water depth and “piano key faults” and the fact that these also affect the seafloor, indicate that the Atlantic Atlas is still active north of Agadir canyon.

We propose that recent uplift is causing morphogenesis of four terraces in the Essaouira canyon system. In this paper the role of both Canary plume migration and ongoing convergence between the African and Eurasian plates in the formation of the Atlantic Atlas are discussed as possibilities to explain the presence of a tectonic arch in the region. The process of reactivation of passive margins is still not well understood. The region north of Agadir canyon represents a key area to better understand this process.


Atlas Mountain belt, Tectonic arch, Moroccan passive margin, Submerged terraces, Uplift

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Benabdellouahed Massinissa, Klingelhoefer Frauke, Gutscher M. -A., Rabineau Marina, Biari Youssef, Hafid M., Duarte J. C., Schnabel M., Baltzer Agnes, Pedoja K., Le Roy P., Reichert C., Sahabi M. (2017). Recent uplift of the Atlantic Atlas (offshore West Morocco): Tectonic arch and submarine terraces. Tectonophysics. 706-707. 46-58.,

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