Forebulge migration in the Cretaceous Western interior basin of the Central United States

T. White, K. Furlong, M. Arthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


This study combines stratigraphic evidence with geodynamic modelling to demonstrate that a forebulge played an identifiable role in Cenomanian-Turonian erosion and sediment accumulation in the North American Western Interior basin. The early to middle Turonian forebulge migrated progressively eastwards, and by the upper middle Turonian acted as a 'backstop' against which barrier islands formed in the axial basin. This paper focuses on the progressive migration of an unconformity on the forebulge. The lengthwise orogen-parallel orientation and time-transgressive orogen-normal migration of the forebulge unconformity are characteristics that differentiate it from unconformities developed on reactivated basement structures. We present a conceptual model in which the unconformity formed as the seafloor was uplifted by forebulge-related flexure to a water depth at which submarine bypass and erosion occurred. A numerical model that describes forebulge migration in response to load dispersal by erosion of the orogenic front and sedimentation into the foredeep indicates that the distance from the thrust front to the forebulge is within reasonable bounds established using a flexural rigidity of 3 X 1024 Nm. We identify architecturally similar, coeval unconformities from Montana to New Mexico, and interpret the similar distance from the thrust front to a point where each unconformity dissipates as indicative of a uniform lithospheric flexural response along the orogenic front. Here we ascribe cratonward (west-to-east) forebulge migration to erosional load redistribution, whereas orogen-parallel (north-south) stratigraphic climb of the forebulge unconformities developed in response to depocentre migration. Inherited lithospheric inhomogencities may have allowed the forebulge in central Colorado to crest farther from the orogen than to the north and south.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-54
Number of pages12
JournalBasin Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology


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