Abstract

The lower continental rise of Morocco’s Atlantic Margin contains three varying morphologies of buried deepwater sediment waves. The 3D mapping of a 1,064-km2 seismic survey acquired in the Safi Haute Mer seismic block revealed numerous linear features that range from small, less than 17-m-thick Jurassic-age amplitude striations up to 110-m-thick migrating Cretaceous contourite sediment waves. Early proto-Atlantic deposition in Safi Haute Mer initiated in the Triassic, with syn- and postrift accumulation in basement half-grabens basinward of the modern Moroccan salt front. Sedimentation continued through the Mesozoic with deposition of turbidites, progradation of clinoforms, and culminating in multiple Late Cretaceous, regionally expansive, mass-transport deposits (20,000km2). Tertiary stratigraphy consists of multiple thin, pelagic drapes and unconformities. The complex history of sedimentation and tectonics gave rise to three styles of sediment waves found within the study area: (1) type J1 — small and poorly imaged, Jurassic age, locally generated wave forms that have wavelengths of up to 12 km and crest-to-crest separations of less than 1 km with little or no vertical expression; (2) type K1 — early Aptian constructional sediment waves (110m thick) built by contour currents that traveled in and near a contourite moat at the base of a seafloor high produced by shallowly buried mobile salt; and (3) type K2 — latest Albian and earliest post-Albian sediment waves built by along-slope currents on a relatively stable slope, showing evidence of updip migration. The type K2 sediment wavefield exhibits wave heights of 40 m and crest-to-crest separations of 1 km, and it is continuous over the entire study area.

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