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Passive-margin salt basins: hyperextension, evaporite deposition, and salt tectonics

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Abstract

Passive-margin salt basins are classified as prerift, syn-stretching, syn-thinning, and syn-exhumation. Prerift salt, such as the Triassic Keuper in the Western Pyrenees, undergoes thick-skinned extension, first decoupled and then coupled, along with its substrate and cover. The base salt develops significant relief, is attenuated on the largest faults, and ends up distributed across the entire margin. Syn-stretching salt, such as along the Iberian and Newfoundland margins, is deposited during early rifting and is thus concentrated in proximal areas with variable thickness and extent, with decoupled and coupled thick-skinned deformation dominant. Syn-thinning salt, such as in the northern Red Sea, is also deposited during extension, with the base salt unconformably above proximal stretching faults but offset by distal thinning faults. Both thick-skinned and gravity-driven thin-skinned deformation occur, with the latter strongly influenced by the ramp-flat geometry of the base salt. Syn-exhumation salt, such as in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic salt basins, is deposited as part of the sag basin with broad distribution and a generally unfaulted base. Conjugate syn-exhumation salt basins are originally contiguous, form partly over exhumed mantle on magma-poor margin segments, and are commonly flanked by magma-rich segments with volcanic highs (seaward-dipping reflectors) that isolate the salt basin from marine water. Salt tectonics is characterized by gravitational failure of the salt and overburden, with proximal extension and distal contraction, and the development of allochthonous salt that includes frontal nappes that advance over newly formed oceanic crust.

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