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Seismic Stratigraphy of Middle Cretaceous Unconformity (MCU) in Central Gulf of Mexico Basin

Michael J. Faust

A widespread high-amplitude reflector seen on seismic data throughout the Gulf of Mexico has been called the middle Cretaceous unconformity (MCU). This reflector seems to be a major stratigraphic boundary in the Gulf of Mexico basin. It is believed to correspond to Vail's type 1 unconformity of middle Cenomanian age (97 Ma), which records an eustatic drop in sea level of approximately 200 m. The study area includes the entire Gulf of Mexico, except areas of thick, highly deformed salt where following the MCU with any degree of confidence becomes impossible.

The MCU is easy to follow in multichannel seismic reflection profiles collected by the Institute for Geophysics of the University of Texas at Austin in the Gulf of Mexico. In the central, deeper part of the gulf, reflectors above and below the MCU are parallel. In the southern and eastern rims of the gulf, along the Campeche and Florida escarpments, reflectors are truncated below the MCU and show onlap relationships above it. Therefore, the MCU may be interpreted as representing an unconformity along the southern and eastern rims of the Gulf of Mexico basin. The unconformity appears to die out and grade into a conformable section toward the center of the basin, and channeling is common along the Campeche and Florida escarpments. These channels can be projected back into canyons in the escarpments, which were probably initiated by subaerial exposure of the top of the escarpments during the middle Cretaceous lowstand. The downslope channels, being sourced by the canyons, were cut in deep water.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.