Modelling Passive Margin Sequence Stratigraphy

  1. Henry W. Posamentier6,
  2. Colin P. Summerhayes7,
  3. Bilal U. Haq8 and
  4. George P. Allen9
  1. M. S. Steckler1,
  2. D. J. Reynolds2,
  3. B. J. Coakley2,†,
  4. B. A. Swift3 and
  5. R. Jarrard

Published Online: 15 APR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444304015.ch2

Sequence Stratigraphy and Facies Associations

Sequence Stratigraphy and Facies Associations

How to Cite

Steckler, M. S., Reynolds, D. J., Coakley, B. J., Swift, B. A. and Jarrard, R. (2009) Modelling Passive Margin Sequence Stratigraphy, in Sequence Stratigraphy and Facies Associations (eds H. W. Posamentier, C. P. Summerhayes, B. U. Haq and G. P. Allen), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444304015.ch2

Editor Information

  1. 6

    Plano, Texas, USA

  2. 7

    Godalming, UK

  3. 8

    Washington, DC, USA

  4. 9

    St Remy les Chevreuses, France

Author Information

  1. 1

    Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, New York, USA

  2. 2

    Department of Geological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

  3. 3

    United States Geological Survey, Office of Marine Geology, Woods Hole, MA, USA

  1. Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA

  2. Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2009
  2. Published Print: 17 NOV 1993

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780632035489

Online ISBN: 9781444304015



  • modelling passive margin sequence stratigraphy;
  • sequence-stratigraphic model;
  • sequence timing;
  • continental margin reconstruction;
  • conceptual and numerical models of stratigraphic sequence formation;
  • backstripping of sequences - reconstructing past continental margin geometry;
  • understanding interactions between processes in generating sequences


We have modelled stratigraphic sequences to aid in deciphering the sedimentary response to sea-level change. Sequence geometry is found to be most sensitive to sea level, but other factors, including subsidence rate and sediment supply, can produce similar changes. Sediment loading and compaction also play a major role in generating accommodation, a factor often neglected in sequence-stratigraphic models. All of these parameters can control whether a type 1 or type 2 sequence boundary is produced. The models indicate that variations in margin characteristics produce systematic shifts in sequence boundary timing and systems tract distribution. The timing of the sequence boundary formation and systems tracts may differ by up to one-half of a sea-level cycle. Thus correlative sequence boundaries will not be synchronous. While rates of sea-level change may exceed the rate of thermal subsidence, isostasy and compaction may amplify the rate of total subsidence to several times greater than the thermal subsidence. Thus, total subsidence does not vary uniformly across the margin since it is modified by the sediment load. The amplitude of sea-level changes cannot be determined accurately without accounting for the major processes that affect sediment accumulation. Backstripping of a seismic line on the New Jersey margin is used to reconstruct continental margin geometry. The reconstructions show that the pre-existing ramp-margin geometry, rather than sea level, controls clinoform heights and slopes and sedimentary bypass. Backstripping also reveals progressive deformation of sequences due to compaction. Further work is still needed to understand quantitatively the role of sea level and the tectonic and sedimentary processes controlling sequence formation and influencing sequence architecture.