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Abstract

The topographic relief and bathymetry of the Gulf of Mexico basin area reflect quite closely the geologic structure of the basin (Fig. 1 and Plates 1 and 3). Parts of the structural rims along the northern, northwestern, and western flanks of the basin are marked by mountain ranges and highlands: the southern plunge of the Appalachians and the Ouachita Mountains to the north, the Edwards Plateau and the low ridges of the Marathon area to the northwest, and the Sierra Madre Oriental to the west. From the foothills of these highlands, the coastal plains slope toward the Gulf of Mexico, a small ocean basin that occupies the central and deeper part of the basin. To the north and northwest, the coastal plains and the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico are widest and have a gentler slope toward the center of the Gulf, corresponding to the gentle slope of the “basement” in the region. To the west, in eastern Mexico, the coastal plain and the shelf are much narrower and steeper, as is the “basement” surface. To the southeast and east, the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, which in its deepest part reaches depths of a little more than 3,700 m, rises steeply along the Campeche and Florida submarine escarpments to the flat Yucatan and Florida carbonate platforms, under which the “basement” is similarly flat and featureless. Much of these two platforms lies submerged below the waters of the Gulf of Mexico at depths of less than 200

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