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Previous investigations on the Mesozoic rift history of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) have focused on the pre-rift geometrical fits of continental crust in North America, Mexico, Chiapas, and Yucatan. Less emphasis has been placed on inferring the process of lithospheric thinning known from other, better studied, rifted margins including: (1) mantle plume vs. crustal controls on rifting; (2) magma-poor vs. magma-rich style; and (3) linking stratigraphic and/or uplift events to each stage of the rifting, including the deposition of massive evaporites.

Observations based on interpretations of ~17,000 km of deep-penetration 2D seismic lines tied to wells have lead to the following interpretations:

  1. Massive lava flows of 8 km in thickness and having eastward dips (seaward-dipping reflectors or “SDR’s”) are mapped across a ~16,600 km2 area of Lloyd Ridge in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico and formed prior to the formation of ocean floor in the deeper, central Gulf;

  2. Stratigraphic correlations show that the SDR’s show they are coeval or slightly later than massive salt deposition and late Jurassic sedimentary rocks but younger than the formation of oceanic crust in the central Gulf;

  3. The eastern Gulf of Mexico is within ~600 km of the calculated center of the CAMP mantle plume head that created thickened oceanic crust beneath the Bahamas area; for this reason the presence of SDR’s is a likely consequence of the CAMP plume, although no core samples have been recovered to test the age and geochemistry of the volcanic rocks; and

  4. The restoration of now misaligned, subsurface rifts present on the Yucatan block and in the Florida subsurface constrain the total counter-clockwise rotation of the Yucatan block to ~32°; rift orientations suggest that the rotation has occurred in two phases: an earlier stage of north-north-west/south-southeast rifting that formed the original set of rifts, followed by a later stage of east-northeast/west-northwest rifting that caused rifts in this orientation to become misaligned.

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