The Canary Islands swell: a coherence analysis of bathymetry and gravity Academic Article uri icon


  • The Canary Archipelago is an intraplate volcanic chain, located near the West African continental margin, emplaced on old oceanic lithosphere of Jurassic age, with an extended volcanic activity since Middle Miocene. The adjacent seafloor does not show the broad oceanic swell usually observed in hotspot-generated oceanic islands. However, the observation of a noticeable depth anomaly in the basement west of the Canaries might indicate that the swell is masked by a thick sedimentary cover and the influence of the Canarian volcanism. We use a spectral approach, based on coherence analysis, to determine the swell and its compensation mechanism. The coherence between gravity and topography indicates that the swell is caused by a subsurface load correlated with the surface volcanic load. The residual gravity/geoid anomaly indicates that the subsurface load extends 600 km SSW and 800 km N and NNE of the islands. We used computed depth anomalies from available deep seismic profiles to constrain the extent and amplitude of the basement uplift caused by a relatively low-density anomaly within the lithospheric mantle, and coherence analysis to constrain the elastic thickness of the lithosphere (T(e)) and the compensation depth of the swell. Depth anomalies and coherence are well simulated with T(e)=28-36 km, compensation depth of 40-65 km, and a negative density contrast within the lithosphere of similar to 33 kg m(-3) The density contrast corresponds to a temperature increment of similar to 325 degrees C, which we interpret to be partially maintained by a low-viscosity convective layer in the lowermost lithosphere, and which probably involves the shallower parts of the asthenosphere. This interpretation does not require a significant rejuvenation of the mechanical properties of the lithosphere.

publication date

  • March 1998