High-resolution shallow seismic reflection profiles across the northwesternmost part of the New Madrid seismic zone (NMSZ) and northwestern margin of the Reelfoot rift, near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in the northern Mississippi embayment, reveal intense structural deformation that apparently took place during the late Paleozoic and/or Mesozoic up to near the end of the Cretaceous Period. The seismic profiles were sited on both sides of the northeast-trending Olmsted fault, defined by varying elevations of the top of Mississippian (locally base of Cretaceous) bedrock. The trend of this fault is close to and parallel with an unusually straight segment of the Ohio River and is approximately on trend with the westernmost of two groups of northeast-aligned epicenters ("prongs") in the NMSZ. Initially suspected on the basis of pre-existing borehole data, the deformation along the fault has been confirmed by four seismic reflection profiles, combined with some new information from drilling. The new data reveal (1) many high-angle normal and reverse faults expressed as narrow grabens and anticlines (suggesting both extensional and compressional regimes) that involved the largest displacements during the late Cretaceous (McNairy); (2) a different style of deformation involving probably more horizontal displacements (i.e., thrusting) that occurred at the end of this phase near the end of McNairy deposition, with some fault offsets of Paleocene and younger units; (3) zones of steeply dipping faults that bound chaotic blocks similar to that observed previously from the nearby Commerce geophysical lineament (CGL); and (4) complex internal deformation stratigraphically restricted to the McNairy, suggestive of major sediment liquefaction or landsliding. Our results thus confirm the prevalence of complex Cretaceous deformations continuing up into Tertiary strata near the northern terminus of the NMSZ. ?? 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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Variable post-Paleozoic deformation detected by seismic reflection profiling across the northwestern "prong" of New Madrid seismic zone