Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Interpretation 7:4 (November 2019), pp. T899–T910.

doi: 10.1190/INT-2018-0258.1


Copyright © 2019 Society of Exploration Geophysicists and American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Used by permission.


The tectonic history of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is a subject for ongoing debate. The nature of the crust in the northwestern and central parts of the basin remains poorly understood. Joined interpretation of two 2D seismic cross sections—GUMBO1 and GUMBO2—with potential fields (gravity and magnetics) constrained with available well data allows testing various hypotheses about the subsurface structures and crustal architecture in the study area. In the northwestern GOM, two contradicting hypotheses about the nature of the crust were tested—exhumed mantle versus a thinned and intruded continental crust resulted from magma-rich rifting. The nature of the crust was also investigated in the central GOM, where the disagreement in the location of the ocean-continent boundary (OCB) from various published tectonic models reaches 140 km (87 mi). The results suggest that the crust in the study area is stretched continental with multiple magmatic additions represented by dense and highly magnetic bodies with fast seismic velocities, presumably introduced during the magma-assisted rifting of the GOM. The contact between oceanic and continental domains, i.e., the OCB, is interpreted to be near the Sigsbee Escarpment for both modeled lines. The analysis does not support the presence of thick presalt sediments in the study area. This result questions the currently accepted tectonic reconstructions of the GOM as thick presalt deposits are imaged confidently by various seismic surveys along the western Yucatan margin, which is believed to be a conjugate for the study area. This apparent mismatch in distribution of the presalt sediments requires further investigation.