We recorded high-resolution seismic-reflection data in the northern Gulf of Mexico to study gas and gas-hydrate distribution and their relation to seafloor slides. Gas hydrate is widely reported near the seafloor, but is described at only one deep drill site. Our data show high-reflectivity zones (HRZs) near faults, diapirs, and gas vents and interbedded within sedimentary sections at shallow depth (<1 km). The HRZs lie below the gas-hydrate-stability zone (GHSZ) as well as within the zone (less common), and they coincide with zones of shallow water-flows. Bottom simulating reflections are rare in the Gulf, and not documented in our data. We infer HRZs result largely from free gas in sandy beds, with gas hydrate within the GHSZ. Our estimates for the base BHSZ correlate reasonably with the top of HRZs in some thick well-layered basin sections, but poorly where shallow sediments are thin and strongly deformed. The equivocal correlation results from large natural variability of parameters that are used to calculate the base of the GHSZ. The HRZs may, however, be potential indicators of nearby gas hydrate. The HRZs also lie at the base of at least two large seafloor slides (e.g. up to 250 km2) that may be actively moving along decollement faults that sole within the GHSZ or close to the estimated base of the GHSZ. We suspect that water/gas flow along these and other faults such as 'chimney' features provide gas to permit crystallization of gas hydrate in the GHSZ. Such flows weaken sediment that slide down salt-oversteepened slopes when triggered by earthquakes. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.
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High-resolution seismic-reflection investigation of the northern Gulf of Mexico gas-hydrate-stability zone