Morphological Development of the Florida Escarpment - Observations on the Generation of Time Transgressive Unconformities in Carbonate Terrains

Paull, CK, Twichell DC, Spiess FN, Curray JR.  1991.  Morphological Development of the Florida Escarpment - Observations on the Generation of Time Transgressive Unconformities in Carbonate Terrains. Marine Geology. 101:181-201.

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bahama escarpment, brine seeps, canyons, continental-slope, eastern gulf, geology, margin, mexico, platform, stratigraphy


An unconformity of 100 m.yr magnitude continues to form on the western edge of the Florida-Bahama Platform, near 26-degrees-N, where distal Mississippi Fan sediments are progressively burying the Florida Escarpment. Multiple perspectives of the developing unconformity's morphology are revealed using available technologies including GLORIA images of the entire platform's edge, Seabeam bathymetric contours, and Deep-Tow's high resolution side-scan data calibrated with bottom photographs. The structure and stratigraphy of the buried escarpment and the associated unconformity are resolved by airgun, sparker, and Deep-Tow's 4 kHz seismic reflection data; we summarize the morphological data on the exposed part of the unconformity and the sedimentary deposits accumulating in the basin above the unconformity. The exposed cliff face is composed of a staircase of bedding-plane terraces which are developed along joint planes. The terraces extend 100-1000 m along the escarpment's face, and the intervening vertical walls are up to 100 m high. The jointed morphology of this Mesozoic limestone cliff apparently reflects erosional exposure of its interior anatomy rather than its accretionary shape. The change in slope between the platform face and the abyssal plain is very abrupt. In places along the contact between the escarpment and fan sediments, reduced chemical-charged brine seeps occur, which locally cause carbonate dissolution and precipitation, sulfide mineralization, and the deposition of a fossiliferous and organic carbon-rich lens associated with chemosynthetic communities. These seep deposits and escarpment-derived megabreccias intercalate with basinal sediments that overlie the unconformity. Because surface seismic reflection data do not produce images of the escarpment's face that closely reflect the exposed escarpment's morphology, they must also be of limited value in characterizing the surface of similar steeply dipping buried escarpments. Thus, the downslope extent of the heavily eroded platform edge is unclear.