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Allostratigraphy of the U.S. middle Atlantic continental margin; characteristics, distribution, and depositional history of principal unconformity-bounded upper Cretaceous and Cenozoic sedimentary units

Professional Paper 1542

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Abstract

Publication of Volumes 93 and 95 ('The New Jersey Transect') of the Deep Sea Drilling Project's Initial Reports completed a major phase of geological and geophysical research along the middle segment of the U. S. Atlantic continental margin. Relying heavily on data from these and related published records, we have integrated outcrop, borehole, and seismic-reflection data from this large area (500,000 km^2 ) to define the regional allostratigraphic framework for Upper Cretaceous and Cenozoic sedimentary rocks. The framework consists of 12 alloformations, which record the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic depositional history of the contiguous Baltimore Canyon trough (including its onshore margin) and Hatteras basin (northern part). We propose stratotype sections for each alloformation and present a regional allostratigraphic reference section, which crosses these basins from the inner edge of the coastal plain to the inner edge of the abyssal plain. Selected supplementary reference sections on the coastal plain allow observation of the alloformations and their bounding unconformities in outcrop. Our analyses show that sediment supply and its initial dispersal on the middle segment of the U. S. Atlantic margin have been governed, in large part, by hinterland tectonism and subsequently have been modified by paleoclimate, sea-level changes, and oceanic current systems. Notable events in the Late Cretaceous to Holocene sedimentary evolution of this margin include (1) development of continental-rise depocenters in the northern part of the Hatteras basin during the Late Cretaceous; (2) the appear ance of a dual shelf-edge system, a marked decline in siliciclastic sediment accumulation rates, and widespread acceleration of carbonate production during high sea levels of the Paleogene; (3) rapid deposition and progradation of thick terrigenous delta complexes and development of abyssal depocenters during the middle Miocene to Quaternary interval; and (4) deep incision of the shelf edge by submarine canyons, especially during the Pleistocene. Massive downslope gravity flows have dominated both the depositional and erosional history of the middle segment of the U. S. Atlantic Continental Slope and Rise during most of the last 84 million years. The importance of periodic widespread erosion is recorded by well-documented unconformities, many of which can be traced from coastal-plain outcrops to coreholes on the continental slope and lower continental rise. These unconformities form the boundaries of the 12 allostratigraphic units we formally propose herein. Seven of the unconformities correlate with supercycle boundaries (sequence boundaries) that characterize the Exxon sequence-stratigraphy model.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Allostratigraphy of the U.S. middle Atlantic continental margin; characteristics, distribution, and depositional history of principal unconformity-bounded upper Cretaceous and Cenozoic sedimentary units
Series title:
Professional Paper
Series number:
1542
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1993
Language:
ENGLISH
Description:
81 p.