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Abstract: Hierarchical Arranging of Geologic Processes as Related to Passive Continental Margin Evolution

Allen Lowrie, Sylvia Ann Cureau

The evolution of a passive continental margin (PCM) is the result of a combination of high- and low-frequency interrelating geologic processes. The term "geologic process" is used here to mean those phenomena and forces that are recognizable in the present and past as unique and distinct, and appear to act alone within the natural world. Different processes have differing intensities (amplitudes) and periodicities (wavelengths).

Geologic processes are arranged here in an exponential hierarchy ranging from 100 to 108 yr to aid visualization. Processes are assigned to that hierarchical level in which that process is most obvious, e.g., seasonal changes are obvious on the annual (100-yr) level and PCM evolution on the hundred-million- (108) year level. These assignments are general and crude in that geologic process subtleties may well be obscured.

Low-frequency processes generally have periodicities from 106 to 109 yr. Those tectonic and structural processes of such periodicities often give the appearance of greater geologic import than similar aged sedimentation, oceanography, and climatic processes. The separating and reuniting of continental plates in a Gondwanaland-type exercise may take 109 yr. Initial rifting as in East Africa lasts 108 years. Similarly, the evolution of an intraplate basin may take 108 yr or multiples thereof. A single subsidence or uplift event may last 106 up to 107 yr.

High-frequency processes appear to be prominent at periodicities ranging from 100 to 107 yr. As here defined, high-frequency processes are those that are recorded and are no longer active in the sediment accumulations and tectonic evolution within a PCM. Sediment formations are the result of wind, weather, and wave and the forces that create them.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90983©1994 GCAGS and Gulf Coast SEPM 44th Annual Meeting, Austin, Texas, October 6-7, 1994