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An Optimized and Focused Lithospheric Deformation Model for Reconstructing the Mesozoic Evolution of the Gulf of Mexico Basin
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  • Satyam Pratap Singh,
  • Sabin Zahirovic,
  • Maria Seton,
  • Nicky M Wright
Satyam Pratap Singh

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Sabin Zahirovic
Maria Seton
Nicky M Wright


The Gulf of Mexico (GoM) is a passive rift margin that is shrouded in thick sedimentary layers, making it challenging to trace its Mesozoic evolution. Traditionally, plate tectonic models have required an assumption of rigid plates, limiting our ability to understand the evolution of passive margins given the wealth of geological and geophysical evidence indicating significant crustal deformation during rifting processes. However, recent advances have been made in our ability to incorporate deformation into plate tectonic models.Here, we present a novel approach to reconstruct the evolution of the GoM by using an optimized and focused deformable plate model. Our new model uses a time-evolving focused deformation along the rift, where the strain rate evolves over time from being more uniform initially to increasing exponentially seaward to the point of continental rupture and ocean crust formation.By incorporating time-evolving deformation into our plate reconstruction, we can additionally derive crustal thickness and thermal and tectonic subsidence through time, which allows us to better explore the depositional history of the presalt deposition and crustal architecture evolution of the GoM basin. Our deformation model is optimized to minimize the root mean squared error (RMSE) between predicted present-day crustal thickness and the GEMMA crustal thickness model, resulting in an RMSE of 5.6 km compared to GEMMA, with <2 km absolute error in the northwest and northeast GoM. The resulting tectonic subsidence of ~1.5 km before the Yucatán block drifted in Late Triassic providing routes for the deposition of red beds through the paleo-drainage systems of the northern GoM as successor basin infilling. We find rapid subsidence occurred in the central GoM during the Early Jurassic shifting red bed deposition to a location that presently lies beneath the salt formation, potentially reconciling ~40 Myrs of missing sedimentary strata. Extension rate and stretching factor calculations reveal a transition from a magma-rich to a hyperextended margin, with possible mantle exhumation.Through our study, we highlight the significance of adopting optimized deformable plate reconstruction models, which enables quantitative interpretations of the tectonic history and geological evolution in rift basins globally.
22 Dec 2023Submitted to AGU 2023 Annual Meeting
27 Dec 2023Published in AGU 2023 Annual Meeting