Geological Society of London
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Chapter 3 History of continental shelf and slope sedimentation on the US middle Atlantic margin

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posted on 2016-06-21, 11:38 authored by Kenneth G. Miller, James V. Browning, Gregory S. Mountain, Robert E. Sheridan, Peter J. Sugarman, Scott Glenn, Beth A. Christensen

We describe sedimentation on the storm-dominated, microtidal, continental shelf and slope of the eastern US passive continental margin between the Hudson and Wilmington canyons. Sediments here recorded sea-level changes over the past 100 myr and provide a classic example of the interplay among eustasy, tectonism and sedimentation. Long-term margin evolution reflects changes in morphology from a Late Cretaceous–Eocene ramp to Oligocene and younger prograding clinothem geometries, a transition found on several other margins. Deltaic systems influenced Cretaceous and Miocene sedimentation, but, in general, the Maastrichtian–Palaeogene shelf was starved of sediment. Pre-Pleistocene sequences follow a repetitive model, with fining- and coarsening-upward successions associated with transgressions and regressions, respectively. Pleistocene–Holocene sequences are generally quite thin (<20 m per sequence) and discontinuous beneath the modern shelf, reflecting starved sedimentation under high rates of eustatic change and low rates of subsidence. However, Pleistocene sequences can attain great thickness (hundreds of metres) beneath the outermost shelf and continental slope. Holocene sedimentation on the inner shelf reflects transgression, decelerating from rates of approximately 3–4 to around 2 mm a−1 from 5 to 2 ka. Modern shelf sedimentation primarily reflects palimpsest sand sheets plastered and reworked into geostrophically controlled nearshore and shelf shore-oblique sand ridges, and does not provide a good analogue for pre-Pleistocene deposition.