Geomorphic Manifestations of Salt Dome Stability
The U.S. Department of Energy is presently seeking to identify salt domes that are suitable for high-level nuclear waste storage. In an effort to determine the tectonic and hydrologic stability of several salt domes in the Interior Gulf Coast, an investigation of their topographic expression was conducted. A model describing the erosional evolution of salt dome topography was devised and tested on 27 salt domes. As part of the model, it was postulated that erosional processes near salt dome areas are dominated by the subtle topographic highs that are formed over the salt diapirs. These topographic highs are attributed to differential loading and compaction of the underlying sediments. The model describes the assemblages of slopes and drainage elements as they progressively develop over and around tectonically and hydrologically stable salt domes. The model provides a conceptual framework for systematic analysis of salt dome topographies and thus aids in detecting salt domes that are suspected to have some tectonic and hydrologic instability problems.