The gravity field of the U.S. Atlantic continental margin


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Approximately 39,000 km of marine gravity data collected during 1975 and 1976 have been integrated with U.S. Navy and other available data over the U.S. Atlantic continental margin between Florida and Maine to obtain a 10 mgal contour free-air gravity anomaly map. A maximum typically ranging from 0 to +70 mgal occurs along the edge of the shelf and Blake Plateau, while a minimum typically ranging from -20 to -80 mgal occurs along the base of the continental slope, except for a -140 mgal minimum at the base of the Blake Escarpment. Although the maximum and minimum free-air gravity values are strongly influenced by continental slope topography and by the abrupt change in crustal thickness across the margin, the peaks and troughs in the anomalies terminate abruptly at discrete transverse zones along the margin. These zones appear to mark major NW-SE fractures in the subsided continental margin and adjacent deep ocean basin, which separate the margin into a series of segmented basins and platforms. Rapid differential subsidence of crustal blocks on either side of these fractures during the early stages after separation of North America and Africa (Jurassic and Early Cretaceous) is inferred to be the cause of most of the gravity transitions along the length of margin. The major transverse zones are southeast of Charleston, east of Cape Hatteras, near Norfolk Canyon, off Delaware Bay, just south of Hudson Canyon and south of Cape Cod. Local Airy isostatic anomaly profiles (two-dimensional, without sediment corrections) were computed along eight multichannel seismic profiles. The isostatic anomaly values over major basins beneath the shelf and rise are generally between -10 and -30 mgal while those over the platform areas are typically 0 to +20 mgal. While a few isostatic anomaly profiles show local 10-20 mgal increases seaward of the East Coast Magnetic Anomaly (ECMA: inferred to mark the ocean-continent boundary), the lack of a consistent correlation indicates that the relationship of isostatic gravity anomalies to the magnetic anomalies and the ocean-continent transition is variable. Two-dimensional gravity models have been computed for two profiles off Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape May, New Jersey, where excellent reflection, refraction and magnetic control appear to define 10 and 12 km deep sedimentary basins beneath the shelf, respectively and 10 km deep basins beneath the rise. The basins are separated by a 6-8 km deep basement ridge which underlies the ECMA and appears to mark the landward edge of oceanic crust. The gravity models suggest that the oceanic crust is between 11 and 18 km thick beneath the ECMA, but decreases to a thickness of less than 8 km within the first 20-90 km to the southeast. In both profiles, the derived crustal thickness variations support the interpretation that the ECMA occurs over the ocean-continent boundary. The crust underlying the sedimentary cover appears to be 12 to 15 km thick on the landward side of the ECMA and gradually thickens to normal continental values of greater than 25 km within the first 60 to 110 km to the northwest. Multichannel seismic profiles across platform areas, such as Cape Hatteras and Cape Cod, indicate the ocean-continent transition zones there are much narrower than profiles across major sedimentary basins, such as the one off New Jersey. ?? 1979.

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The gravity field of the U.S. Atlantic continental margin
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