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Book Chapter

Kinematic Evolution of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean

By
James Pindell
James Pindell
Tectonic Analysis, Ltd. Cokes, Barn, West Burton West Sussex RH20 1HD England. Also, Dept. Earth Science, Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA
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Lorcan Kennan
Lorcan Kennan
Tectonic Analysis, Ltd. Cokes, Barn, West Burton, West Sussex RH20 1HD, England
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Published:
December 01, 2001

Abstract

We present a series of 14 updated tectonic reconstructions for the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region since the Jurassic, giving due attention to plate kinematic and palinspastic accuracy. Primary elements of the model are

  1. A re-evaluation of the Mesozoic break-up of Pangea, to better define the Proto-Caribbean passive margin elements, the geology and kinematics of the Mexican and Colombian intra-arc basins, and the nature of the early Great Caribbean Arc;

  2. Pre-Albian circum-Caribbean rock assemblages are reconstructed into a primitive, west-facing, Mexico-Antilles-Ecuador arc (initial roots of Great Caribbean arc) during the early separation of North and South America;

  3. The subduction zone responsible for Caribbean Cretaceous HP/LT metamorphic assemblages was initiated during an Aptian subduction polarity reversal of the early Great arc; the reversal was triggered by a strong westward acceleration of the Americas relative to the mantle which threw the original arc into compression (Pindell et al., in press);

  4. The same acceleration led to the Aptian-Albian onset of back-arc closure and “Sevier” orogenesis in Mexico, the western USA, and the northern Andes, making this a nearly hemispheric event which must have had an equally regional driver;

  5. Once the Great Caribbean arc became east-facing after the polarity reversal, continued westward drift of the Americas, relative to the mantle, caused subduction of proto-Caribbean lithosphere (which belonged to the American plates) beneath the Pacific-derived Caribbean lithosphere, and further developed the Great arc;

  6. Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous, “Pacific-derived,” Caribbean ophiolite bodies were probably dragged and stretched (arc-parallel) southeastward during the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous along an (Aleutian-type) arc spanning the widening gap between Mexico and Ecuador, having originated from subduction accretion complexes in western Mexico;

  7. A Kula-Farallon ridge segment is proposed to have generated at least part of the western Caribbean Plate in Aptian-Albian time, as part of the plate reorganisation associated with the polarity reversal;

  8. B” plateau basalts may relate to excessive Kula-Farallon ridge eruptions or to now unknown hotspots east of that ridge, but not to the Galapagos hotspot;

  9. A two-stage model for Maastrichtian-early Eocene intra-arc spreading is developed for Yucatán Basin;

  10. The opening mechanism of the Grenada intra-arc basin remains elusive, but a north-south component of extension is required to understand arc accretion history in western Venezuela;

  11. Paleocene and younger underthrusting of Proto-Caribbean crust beneath the northern South American margin pre-dates the arrival from the west of the Caribbean Plate along the margin; and

  12. Recognition of a late middle Miocene change in the Caribbean-North American azimuth from east to east-northeast, and the Caribbean-South American azimuth from east-southeast to east, resulted in wholesale changes in tectonic development in both the northeastern and southeastern Caribbean Plate boundary zones.

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GCSSEPM

Petroleum Systems of Deep-Water Basins–Global and Gulf of Mexico Experience

R.H. Fillon
R.H. Fillon
Houston, Texas
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N.C. Rosen
N.C. Rosen
Houston, Texas
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P. Weimer
P. Weimer
Houston, Texas
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A. Lowrie
A. Lowrie
Houston, Texas
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H. Pettingill
H. Pettingill
Houston, Texas
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R.L. Phair
R.L. Phair
Houston, Texas
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H.H. Roberts
H.H. Roberts
Houston, Texas
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H.H. van Hoom
H.H. van Hoom
Houston, Texas
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SEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology
Volume
21
ISBN electronic:
978-0-9836096-9-8
Publication date:
December 01, 2001

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