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ABSTRACT: Seismic and Geologic Characteristics of Drowning Events on Carbonate Platforms

R. N. Erlich, S. E. Barrett, Bai Ju Guo

Carbonate platform drowning events were recorded in Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous carbonates of the Baltimore Canyon area, and early Miocene carbonates of the Pearl River Mouth basin. Cursory examination of seismic data from both areas would suggest that the platforms appear to fit the classic definition of a drowning unconformity. Lithologic and paleontologic data, however, indicate that depositional hiatuses vary widely in each area (from 0-25 Ma in the Baltimore Canyon area, to no hiatus, but a condensed section in the Pearl River Mouth basin). The sedimentary sequence produced during a drowning event (the drowning sequence) in both areas is gradational with underlying shallow platform carbonates and, in some places, overlying deeper marine limestones and shales.

Facies models illustrate that drowning events, in general, can appear as instantaneous or gradual changes in lithologic and seismic data. However, evidence from platforms adjacent to continental margins (Baltimore Canyon) and isolated open ocean atolls and banks (Pearl River Mouth basin) indicates that their response to drowning is different. In addition, bypass/erosional and accretionary carbonate platforms also respond somewhat differently to drowning events.

The geologic characteristics of drowning events on carbonate platforms include gradational lower (and sometimes upper) contacts, chemical (glauconite phosphate) sedimentation, open-marine shelf sediments, and variable loss of time at the upper boundary. Late-growth shelf margin reefs can also be a diagnostic feature of drowned platforms. Seismic characteristics include horizontal to subhorizontal basinal marine onlap and basin-parallel reflector continuity above the carbonate sequence boundary. Proper recognition of the seismic and geologic characteristics of drowning events can lead to better reservoir-seal predictions, and to correct reconstruction of the depositional and tectonic/eustatic history of an area.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91003©1990 AAPG Annual Convention, San Francisco, California, June 3-6, 1990