The Northeastern Gulf of Mexico : volcanic or passive margin? : seismic implications of the Gulf of Mexico Basin opening project
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The Gulf of Mexico Basin Opening project (GUMBO) is a study of the lithological composition and structural evolution of the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) that uses Ocean Bottom Seismometer (OBS) data from four transects in the Northern GoM. I examine 39 OBS shot records in the easternmost transect for shear wave arrivals and pick shear wave travel times from the 11 usable records. I then carry out a tomographic inversion of seismic refraction travel times. I use the resulting shear-wave velocity model in conjunction with a previously constructed P-wave model to examine the relationship between Vp and Vs. I compare velocities in the sediment and basement with empirical velocities from previous studies for the purpose of constraining lithological composition below the transect and make an interpretation of the structural evolution of the eastern GoM. The seismic velocities for crust landward of the Florida Escarpment are consistent with normal continental crust. Seaward of the Escarpment, velocities in the upper oceanic crust are anomalously high (Vp = 6.5 – 7 km/sec; Vs = 4.0 – 4.6 km/sec). A possible explanation for this observation is that GoM basalt formation consisted of basaltic sheet flows, forming oceanic crust that does not contain the vesicularity and lower seismic velocities found in typical pillow basalts. Increased magnesium and iron content could also account for these high velocities. Seismic refraction and reflection data provide a means of investigating the nature of the Moho in the northeastern GoM. I use a finite difference method to generate synthetic record sections for data from eight instruments that are part of the two easternmost GUMBO seismic lines (lines 3 & 4). I then vary the thickness of the Moho in these synthetic models and compare the results with the original receiver gather to examine the effects this variability has on amplitudes. The data from the instruments chosen for these two lines are representative of continental and transitional crust. The finite difference models indicate that the Moho beneath GUMBO 3 is ~1500 m thick based on the onset and amplitudes of PmP arrivals. All five instruments display consistent results. The instruments along GUMBO 4 suggest a Moho almost twice as thick as GUMBO 3 on the landward end of the transect that grades into a Moho of similar thickness (1750 m) in the deep water GoM. The three instruments used to model the Moho in this area show that the Moho ranges from ~1750 to 3500 m in thickness. The sharper boundary beneath continental crust in GUMBO Line 3 supports other evidence that suggests magmatic underplating and volcanism in the northern GoM during the mid-Jurassic. The thicker Moho seen on the landward end of GUMBO Line 4 that is overlain by continental crust was likely unaffected by GoM rifting. Therefore, the Moho beneath the Florida Platform might be as old as the Suwannee Terrane, and complex Moho structure is not uncommon for ancient continental crust.