Science & Engineering Faculty

The ocean-continent transition of late synrift salt basins: Extension and evaporite deposition in the southern Gulf of Mexico and global analogs

Publication Date Jun 21, 2022


ABSTRACT Two-dimensional depth-migrated seismic data were used to interpret and analyze extension and salt deposition in the ocean-continent transition (OCT) along 720 km of the southern Gulf of Mexico rifted margin. The OCT is characterized by alternating areas of salt-filled, fault-bounded outer troughs overlying a shallow Moho and salt perched at a level above the top of oceanic crust. Normal faults and the limit of oceanic crust are both offset by two sets of transfer faults and paleo–transform faults, respectively, that trend NNW-SSE and N-S. The patterns define five OCT segments that show propagation of both rifting and spreading to the NE, an abrupt jump in pole location, and rifting/spreading nuclei that link up laterally. Salt was deposited during outer trough formation to the SW but prior to it in the NE, where salt consequently flowed from proximal locations into the growing trough during decoupled thick-skinned extension. The salt was deposited at least 0.5–1.5 km below global sea level, with precipitation initially confined to the oldest troughs (in the west) and subsequently spreading to cover the entire basin in a deep brine over a period of at least 5 m.y. Possible siliciclastic strata interbedded with the salt were likely sourced from the south and southeast, and hypersaline conditions waned gradually during punctuated marine flooding over another 5–10 m.y. The Gulf of Mexico was thus a giant evaporite basin formed in a deep depression during late-synrift mantle exhumation in a magma-poor sett...


Top Of Oceanic Crust Ocean-continent Transition Late Synrift Outer Trough Trend NNW-SSE Global Sea Level Deep Brine Salt Basins Deep Depression Evaporite Deposition

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