Crustal structure of the eastern Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico initiated in the Late Triassic as South America and Africa separated from North America during the break up of Pangea. Previous studies indicate three models for the opening of the GOM. These include counter clockwise rotation of the Yucatan Block, rotation of the Yucatan Block about the same pole of rotation as those describing seafloor spreading in the central North Atlantic, and clockwise rotation of the Yucatan Block. There is much debate about the margin type and the crustal structure of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico (EGOM), especially below the depth of 6 km where crustal structure is poorly imaged on seismic reflection data. Two 2.5-D forward gravity and magnetic models across the margin are presented. These are constrained by basement picks from sparse seismic reflection and refraction data, spectral analysis of gravity data to determine the depth to source, magnetic susceptibility derived from results from other margins, the empirical relationship between P-wave velocity and density, and crustal scale isostatic modeling. The models, combined with a kinematic reconstruction of the GOM, show that: 1) it is a rifted margin; 2) the point where the Moho deepens downward from ~17 km to ~32 km is approximately 50 km outboard of the topographic shelf edge; 3) the carbonate bank retreated by several kilometers from its original termination due to the action of contourite currents; 4) extension and subsidence was accommodated with little shallow brittle faulting; 5) oceanic lithosphere is possibly outboard of the EGOM continental slope.