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An extensive pockmark field on the upper Atlantic margin of Southeast Brazil:spatial analysis and its relationship with salt diapirism


We present new evidence for the existence of a large pockmark field on the continental slope of the Santos Basin, offshore southeast Brazil. A recent high-resolution multibeam bathymetric survey revealed 984 pockmarks across a smooth seabed at water depths of 300-700 m. Four patterns of pockmark arrays were identified in the data: linear, network, concentric, and radial. Interpretation of Two-dimensional multi-channel seismic reflection profiles that crosscut the surveyed area shows numerous salt diapirs in various stages of development (e.g. salt domes, walls, and anticlines). Some diapirs were exposed on the seafloor, whereas the tops of others (diapir heads) were situated several hundreds of meters below the surface. Extensional faults typically cap these diapirs and reach shallow depths beneath the seafloor. Our analysis suggests that these pockmark patterns are linked to stages in the development of underlying diapirs and their related faults. The latter may extend above salt walls, take the form of polygonal extensional faults along higher-level salt anticlines, or concentric faults above diapir heads that reach close to the seafloor. Seismic data also revealed buried pockmark fields that had developed repeatedly since the Middle Miocene. The close spatio-temporal connection between pockmark and diapir distribution identified here suggests that the pockmark field extends further across the Campos and Espírito Santo Basins, offshore Brazil. Spatial overlap between the pockmark field topping a giant diapir field and a proliferous hydrocarbon basin is believed to have facilitated the escape of fluid/gas from the subsurface to the water column, which was enhanced by halokinesis. This provides a possible control on fossil gas contribution to the marine system over geological time. (AU)

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