The Stratigraphic Expression of Formative Processes in Channels

Friday, 19 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Stephen Michial Hubbard, University of Calgary, Department of Geoscience, Calgary, AB, Canada, Jacob A Covault, Chevron Corporation Houston, Energy Technology Company, Houston, TX, United States, Andrea Fildani, Statoil Gulf ASA, Houston, TX, United States and Brian Romans, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, United States
The stratigraphic record of sinuous fluvial and deep sea channel deposits contains a wealth of information about formative sedimentary processes. For fluvial systems, deposits are considered in the context of processes observed in rivers, with the point bar facies model, as an example, representing a well-established linkage between process and product. A direct link has not been achieved in the deep sea as direct monitoring of coarse-grained sediment transport is challenging, exacerbated by the sporadic and infrequent nature of flows. Until a method for direct observation is developed and widely applied, the stratigraphic record of sediment transfer in the deep sea provides a critical perspective and unique insight into processes that shape not only ancient basin margin slopes, but also the present day seascape.

Despite the obvious similarity in sinuous planforms of open, single thread fluvial and deep sea channels, outcrop characteristics, validated in many instances by experimental and theoretical work, indicate different processes. Meandering fluvial systems are most commonly represented by deposits that reflect point bar migration, a process whereby bank erosion and bar growth are genetically linked. At the bed scale, cross-stratification reflects bedload sediment transport and deposition by traction sedimentation. Single thread deep sea channel-fill strata are commonly characterized by sandstone-filled channelform bodies, which reflect both traction and suspension sedimentation. Heterolithic thin beds and cross-stratification can be locally preserved above channel bases and against channel margins, but the majority of depositional thickness comprises tabular sandstone turbidites that bi-directionally lap onto channel edges. The stratal record indicates a distinction between phases of channel maintenance (e.g., erosion, sediment bypass) and phases of substantial infilling with coarse-grained sediment – they are not contemporaneous. This is a key departure from processes known from meandering fluvial channels that should be considered in devising experiments and inputs for numerical models.