Identification of possible Quaternary deformation in the Northeastern Mississippi embayment using quantitative geomorphic analysis of drainage-basin asymmetry


To investigate neotectonism in the Mississippi Embayment east of the New Madrid seismic zone, we identified geomorphic domains that show evidence of ground tilting during Quaternary time. Transverse basin profiles were converted to two-dimensional vectors that denote channel position with respect to basin divides. These basin-asymmetry vectors record the net direction and degree of lateral migration of trunk streams. More than 2500 vectors were measured and spatially averaged within 400 km2 bins. This field of 300 mean vectors delineates several domains that show preferred directions of stream migrations possibly driven by ground tilting. The timing of stream migration was interpreted using across-valley distributions of Quaternary alluvial terraces. Comparison of our mean vector field with subsurface structures suggests that some domain boundaries may be related to reactivated faults. Late Quaternary activity is suggested for two northeast-striking faults of the southeastern Reelfoot Rift margin. We acquired two seismic profiles showing near-surface faulting beneath scarps that follow the domain boundary associated with one of these northeast-striking faults (Big Creek fault zone). Reelfoot thrust seismicity ends on the south against this fault, suggesting that the rift margin has dextral slip accommodating northeastward movement of the thrust hanging wall. Our vector field also suggests late Quaternary movement on the Reelfoot thrust and on two other northwest-striking faults, here termed the Hatchie River fault and the Wolf River fault. Several other weak domains may imply minor elements of neotectonism. Our results demonstrate that morphometric analysis of drainage-basin asymmetry can be an effective reconnaissance tool within neotectonic settings.

Publication Title

Bulletin of the Geological Society of America