An anhydrite caprock overlies 65% of the 329 onshore salt stocks of the U.S. Gulf Coastal Region, South-Central U.S. The caprock consists of a succession of katatectic (downward-building) layers of anhydrite (each typically 1 to 4 cm thick) and an upper, black pyrite lamina (approx. 0.1 mm thick). The older (upper) katatectic layers are usually highly deformed. During four stages, these fundamental layers formed at the crest of shallow (less than 1,200 m) salt stocks. Repetition of sets of the stages resulted in the cyclicity. The closed stage: A flush, nearly planar contact separated mature anhydrite caprock from an underlying salt-stock crest. As the diapir elevated by a few mm/yr, it arched the caprock; it also opened conduits at the stock’s uppermost anhydrite sheath, allowing NaCl-undersaturated water from outside the diapir to contact the salt stock. The open-dynamic stage: Along the perimeter of the uppermost salt stock, a narrow, annular halite cave advanced inward and upward directly below the slightly convex base of the anhydrite caprock. The most NaCl-aggressive water rose by free convection to the highest elevations and dissolved halite. The dense, solute-enhanced water then reversed direction and, again, by free convection, flowed past the stock’s margin into country rock; NaCl-undersaturated water replaced the departing brine. A water-filled, commonly ring-shaped, planar cave up to several meters high expanded over the stock’s crest. Sparse physical supports, buoyancy, arched caprock, and high artesian water pressure prevented the cave’s collapse. The cave’s halite floor dissolved vertically downward faster than it moved diapirically upward. As the crestal halite dissolved, a small amount of residual pyrite and, typically, a layer up to approx. 10 cm thick of residual anhydrite (generally 3-8 wt % of the stocks) accumulated on the cave floor. The open-static stage: The persistent “attack” of halite highs by the NaCl-undersaturated water eventually caused the slope of the cave’s floor to approach horizontality. The density-driven flow slowed markedly, and a static cover of NaCl-saturated brine thwarted the dissolution of the halite floor. The downward movement of the cave’s floor reversed, and it moved slowly upward via diapirism. Concurrently, an anhydrite sheath evolved around the uppermost stock. The accretionary stage: The cave closed within a few thousand years, and active diapirism underplated the admixed residual minerals onto the base of the caprock. The uppermost, now compact, residual anhydrite dissolved within the high-pressure environment, leaving the discrete, topmost, thin, black pyrite lamina. With the accretion of the residual minerals, a katatectic layer formed at the base of a succession of such layers. The closed stage recurred, and a new katatectic cycle began forming. Variations of the four genetic stages probably occurred during the formation of anhydrite caprocks in other worldwide salt dome provinces, but because of insufficient data, they are usually unrecognizable.

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