Abstract

The conversion of opal A to opal CT is a thermochemical diagenetic process that can cause kilometer-scale differential compaction and differential subsidence within clastic sedimentary basins. This is demonstrated for an opal A to opal CT conversion imaged by three-dimensional seismic data on the northeastern Atlantic margin. This diagenetic “front” has a circular to polygonal ridge-depression morphology. The ridges have a relief of 10–50 m and separate circular to polygonal depressions that have diameters of 1–2 km, some of which link up to form interconnected networks. This morphology initially developed because the host sediments mantled an underlying polygonal fault system and the front tracked deformed stratigraphy. Ridges formed above the tips of the underlying faults, and depressions formed between them. Ridge relief and width then progressively increased due to earlier opal A to opal CT conversion above ridges as well as conversion laterally along beds or bed sets. This caused compaction and concomitant subsidence in the overburden and the development of a circular to polygonal network of overburden troughs aligned with the ridge system. A positive feedback loop was established where additional overburden sediment above the growing ridges reached the depth of conversion ahead of adjacent areas, driving more compaction and differential subsidence. This paper provides the first insights into the large-scale morphological characteristics of opal A to opal CT diagenetic fronts. It demonstrates the potential for a local stratigraphic control on diagenetic front development and morphology and lastly highlights the potential utility of seismic reflection data for understanding diagenetic processes.

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