Seismic Velocity and Thickness of Sediments Beneath the Aleutian Basin, Bering Sea

Monday, 15 December 2014
Daniel S Scheirer1, Ginger A Barth2, Ray W Sliter3, Patrick E Hart3 and Jonathan R Childs2, (1)USGS, GMEG Science Center, Baltimore, MD, United States, (2)USGS, PCM Science Center, Menlo Park, CA, United States, (3)Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, United States
The thickness and seismic velocity structure of sediments of the Aleutian Basin were mapped during a 2011 multichannel seismic (MCS) cruise of the R/V Langseth. Combined with legacy MCS, sonobuoy, and scientific drilling data, the Langseth observations allowed us to study the history of sedimentation in this area. Semblance velocity analyses from common-depth-point gathers of the 8-km-long streamer data were conducted at-sea every 6.25 km. Post-cruise, these semblance analyses were refined and supplemented with new analyses where significant basement topography is present. The flat-lying nature of both the seafloor and the within-sediment reflectors allowed determination of interval velocity and thickness values with high precision using the Dix equation. Two prominent bottom-simulating reflections (BSRs) are common within the sediment column: a shallower one inferred to represent the base of gas hydrate stability, and a deeper one inferred to represent the diagenetic transformation from opal-A to opal-CT. This latter transition was reached by the one deep hole (Site 190, DSDP Leg19) drilled into the Aleutian Basin, where the lithologic contrast prevented further penetration. The gas hydrate BSR is associated with subvertical velocity-amplitude anomalies, and the opal A/CT transition is associated with a large decrease in reflector amplitudes beneath it, indicating the decrease in acoustic impedance contrasts associated with diagenetic dewatering. Seismic interval velocities range from 1600 m/sec at the top of the sediment column to 2800-3500 m/sec at its base. The largest step in interval velocity occurs at the opal A/CT transition. Interval velocities are laterally continuous over many tens of kilometers, and this continuity allows the generation of seismic travel-time vs. sediment thickness relationships across the basin. A second-degree polynomial relationship between time and thickness, developed by regression of all of the semblance velocity analyses from the Langseth cruise, yields a relationship that is statistically identical to one devised in the late 1970’s by analysis of sonobuoy records. Small deviations from this single relationship are systematic and suggest that changes in the sediment provenance may be inferred from these careful MCS velocity analyses.