Biotic and Sedimentologic Signals Associated with Tempestite Deposition from Baffin Bay, Texas

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:50 AM
Donald S Van Nieuwenhuise, University of Houston, Houston, TX, United States
In efforts to determine hurricane frequency prior to historical records, the often used model of counting presumed washover fans as coarse-grained hurricane deposits that interfinger with fine-grained, quiet, lagoon sediments may be oversimplified. The complexities of hurricane depositional events versus the usual dynamic sedimentological processes of barrier island complexes often makes it difficult to distinguish between expected and typical migrating coarse-grained facies from true hurricane deposits. To avoid some of this potential confusion and to better recognize the frequency of strong hurricane events, it is suggested that studies be focused further inland than the washover fans and that in addition to sedimentological indicators, they include biotic and chemical discriminators as well.

These results are part of a broader study examining hurricane deposition along the Texas coast. The focus of this study is on slowly accumulating algal mats near Baffin Bay, Texas, that are punctuated by known hurricane deposits. This marginal lagoonal setting is more than 16 miles away from the Padre Island shorefront. Two cores were taken in 1974 that captured sediments from Hurricane Carla (1970) and Hurricane Beulah (1967). Algal mat depositional rates are on the order of 1.25 cm per year whereas the hurricane sediments are on the order of 45 cm per event. Sediments display flood and ebb surge stages for each event. Additional cores in other parts of the coast have similar sediment accumulation rates.

In general, periods of relatively quiet deposition are dominated by Cyprideis ovata and Ammonia becarrii which can tolerate the conditions of these euryhaline and algal-floored ponds. In contrast, hurricane deposits show clear evidence of additional bay and shallow marine assemblages along with coarse-grained sediments, shell and shell fragments, and significant amounts of mud settling after the retreat of the storm surge.