Multichannel seismic depth sections and interval velocities over outer continental shelf and upper continental slope between Cape Hatteras and Cape Cod: Rifted margins

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Six computer-generated seismic depth sections over the outer continental shelf and upper slope reveal that subhorizontal Lower Cretaceous reflectors continue 20 to 30 km seaward of the present shelf edge. Extensive erosion on the continental slope has occurred primarily during the Tertiary, causing major unconformities and retreat of the shelf edge to its present position. The precise age and number of erosional events is not established, but at least one major erosional event is thought to be Oligocene and related to a marine regression in response to a worldwide eustatic lowering of sea level.

Velocities derived from the multichannel data reveal distinctive ranges and lateral trends as functions of sediment age, depth of burial, and distance from the coastline. Seismic units beneath the shelf and slope of inferred Tertiary age range from 1.7 to 2.7 km/sec, increasing with age and depth of burial. Units interpreted as Upper Cretaceous rocks beneath the shelf range from 2.3 to 3.6 km/sec and show a distinct lateral increase across the shelf followed by a decrease beneath the present continental slope. Inferred Lower Cretaceous and Upper Jurassic rocks beneath the shelf increase from 3.7 to 4.8 km/sec from nearshore to offshore and indicate a change in facies from clastic units below the inner shelf to carbonate units beneath the outer shelf and upper continental slope. Both reflection and refraction data suggest that thin, high-velocity limestone units (5.0 km/sec) are present within the Lower Cretaceous and Upper Jurassic units beneath the outermost shelf edge, but that these change lithology or pinch out before reaching the middle shelf. Although lateral changes in velocity across the shelf and local velocity inversions appear, the interval velocities along the length of the margin show excellent continuity between Cape Hatteras and Cape Cod. The high-velocity horizons within the Lower Cretaceous and Upper Jurassic shelf-edge complex indicate the presence of a carbonate bank or reef.

The continental shelf off New Jersey is underlain by a trough approximately 150 km wide with up to 12 km of sedimentary fill. The oceanic basement beneath the upper continental rise is usually at a depth of 10 to 11 km and is overlain by 6 to 8 km of sediments. The rise sediment trough is separated from the shelf trough by an acoustic basement ridge 25 to 75 km wide where penetration never exceeds 6 km beneath sea level, although faulting and carbonate bank or reef complexes frequently limit penetration to 3 to 4 km in this zone. The acoustic basement ridge coincides with the East Coast Magnetic Anomaly and is interpreted as thick oceanic crust formed during the initial phase of seafloor spreading between North America and Africa. Rapid differential subsidence occurred on opposite sides of the basement ridge during the Jurassic and Early Cretaceous. Differential subsidence beneath the shelf also occurred along the margins, with narrower and shallower shelf troughs occurring off platform areas such as Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras.

Study Area

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Multichannel seismic depth sections and interval velocities over outer continental shelf and upper continental slope between Cape Hatteras and Cape Cod: Rifted margins
Series number 29
Year Published 1979
Language English
Publisher American Association of Petroleum Geologists
Publisher location Tulsa, OK
Contributing office(s) Coastal and Marine Geology Program, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 19 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Title Geological and geophysical investigations of continental margins
First page 65
Last page 83
Country United States
Other Geospatial Cape Cod, Cape Hatteras
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