What can cross-bedding tell us?

Monday, 15 December 2014: 4:00 PM
Guilhem Douillet, Ulrich Kueppers and Donald B Dingwell, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Munich, Germany
Pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) are a common transport mechanism associated with explosive eruptions. They behave as particulate density current (flows of particles and fluid, whose driving force is the excess density compared to the ambient fluid). The particles thus are the defining part of the flow acting as the agent of momentum and the resultant deposits, making PDC sedimentology fundamental. We combine wind tunnel measurements with nontraditional field techniques to consider cross-bedding from dilute PDCs from the mm to the km scale.

Each deposited particle requires 1) momentum to reach its final location, but 2) sufficiently low shearing to halt at this place. A range of shearing is constrained from wind tunnel measurements. The results are combined with field data from lacquer peel sampling (an outcrop is impregnated with a solidifying glue, preserving the primary organization of the grains). This enables quantification of the grain size of mm-scale laminae, giving an order of magnitude of turbulence during deposition.

The lacquer peel technique also imaged cm-scale, soft sediment deformation patterns producing overturned beds. These are interpreted as related to Kelvin-Helmholtz shear instabilities between a granular-based flow and the bed.

Dune bedform (DBs) cross-stratification at the m scale generally have an overall stoss-aggrading stacking pattern. Often interpreted as indicating supercritical flows, the wind-tunnel results and DBs’ geometry rather suggest they are a specificity of particulate density currents with high deposition rates.

Ground penetrating radar (GPR) reveals the 3D stability in location of a DB over several m depth, although stacking patterns vary with time and laterally. This emphasizes the primary influence of the basal boundary layer in the depositional dynamics.

At the 100 m scale, DBs’ shape evolves in dimensions and form, calling for 3D datasets. Terrestrial laser scanner and photogrammetry enable quantification of the evolution of DBs’ outer shape and document the depositional history.

The understanding of PDC cross-bedding is emerging, but ample evidence of the extreme variability in sedimentary facies in depth and laterally call for 3D acquisition schemes from the mm to km scale to depict correctly and understand the information in the buried deposits.