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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

GCAGS Transactions


Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies Transactions
Vol. 51 (2001), Pages 273-283

Cretaceous to Recent Rifting in the Gulf of Mexico Basin

Jack M. Reed


There is evidence in, and, around the periphery of the northern Gulf of Mexico Basin that indicate the basin was formed by tectonic plate readjustment. This rifting started in the late Early Cretaceous and is continuing today. Over 40 articles of evidence support Gulf rifting. A geologic model for this type basin formation is also presented.

Evidence of rifting includes: Arcuate linear magnetic signatures, recorded across the northern Gulf of Mexico, outline possible plate movement. Reflection and refraction data along with deep well control revealed a deep basement ridge and valley system in the northern Gulf that matches closely the above linear magnetic trend. Radiating from the DeSoto Canyon high is a triple juncture system formed by the Cretaceous Shelf Edge, West Florida Escarpment and Suwannee Strait.

The Trans-Mexico neovolcanic belt is offset by a right-lateral transform fault resulting from plate readjustment. The possible connection of the New Madrid and Middleton Place-Summerville earthquake zones to this rift system. Plate readjustment created compressional forces that caused a series of east-west trending mountain ranges in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua along with Caribbean seamounts.

Sea floor spreading in the Cayman Trench that could be results of, and/or part of, initiation of plate movement. The northern Gulf's Exterior Basin salt mass, along with its confining basin, are possibly the results of plate movement. This tectonic model has implications for future petroleum exploration that will be discussed.

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