Structural and stratigraphic evolution of the central Mississippi Canyon Area: interaction of salt tectonics and slope processes in the formation of engineering and geologic hazards
Brand, John Richard
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Approximately 720 square miles of digital 3-dimensional seismic data covering the eastern Mississippi Canyon area, Gulf of Mexico, continental shelf was used to examine the structural and stratigraphic evolution of the geology in the study area. The analysis focused on salt tectonics and sequence stratigraphy to develop a geologic model for the study area and its potential impact on engineering and geologic hazards. Salt in the study area was found to be established structural end-members derived from shallow-emplaced salt sheets. The transition from regional to local salt tectonics was identified through structural deformation of the stratigraphic section on the seismic data and occurred no later than ~450,000 years ago. From ~450,000 years to present, slope depositional processes have become the dominant geologic process in the study area. Six stratigraphic sequences (I-VI) were identified in the study area and found to correlate with sequences previously defined for the Eastern Mississippi Fan. Condensed sections were the key to the correlation. The sequence stratigraphy for the Eastern Mississippi Fan can be extended ~28 miles west, adding another ~720 square miles to the interpreted Fan. A previously defined channel within the Eastern Fan was identified in the study area and extended the channel ~28 miles west. Previous work on the Eastern Fan identified the source of the Fan to be the Mobile River; however, extending the channel west suggests the sediment source to be from the Mississippi River, not the Mobile River. Further evidence for this was found in ponded turbidites whose source has been previously established as the Mississippi River. Ages of the stratigraphic sequences were compared to changes in eustatic sea level. The formation stratigraphic sequences appear decoupled from sea level change with ?pseudo-highstands? forming condensed sections during pronounced Pleistocene sea level lowstands. Miocene and Pleistocene depositional analogues suggest the location of the shifting Mississippi River Pleistocene depocenter is a more dominant influence on sequence formation. Thus, the application of traditional sequence interpretation with respect to sea level change should be reconsidered to also account for the shifting depocenter for both the study area as well as the broader Eastern Mississippi Fan.