Holocene construction and evolution of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta: the influence of climate, eustasy, and tectonics on stratigraphic architecture and fluvial dynamics
Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta (GBMD), an archetypal tidally-influenced deltaic margin, has been the subject of several multi-national, multi-institutional, and interdisciplinary field studies over the past several years, resulting in an unprecedented density of data coverage for stratigraphy, hydrodynamics, and tectonics on a scale previously only found on well-studied delta systems of other types (e.g., Nile, Mississippi, Rhine-Meuse). Using a suite of geochemical, geophysical, and lithologic data extracted from a network of over 400 shallow (<100m) boreholes, the rich Holocene evolution of the Bengal Basin has been illuminated. Provenance of pre- to early-Holocene sediments suggests the position of the Brahmaputra River was once west of its modern location, following a course along the eastern edge of the Tista Fan and west of the modern confluence with the Ganges. Construction of the modern delta, consisting of a thick (up to 80 m) succession of fluvial and deltaic sediments, was initiated by an intensified summer monsoon, coincident with accommodation generated by rapid sea-level rise following the Younger-Dryas. Sediment delivery has been focused along three pathways associated with antecedent topography inherited from Pleistocene lowstands. Stacked channel sands are the predominant facies within the upper delta, grading to isolated sand lenses in the distal reaches of Sylhet Basin, indicative of a shift from a highly mobile braidbelt to a less mobile distributary system as bedload is extracted to deposition. Episodic avulsions of the Brahmaputra River into Sylhet Basin during the mid-Holocene have been documented using a robust radiocarbon geochronology. The volume of sediment preserved from these events is insufficient to account for the entire sediment budget based on estimates of modern discharge, likely a consequence of both a weakened mid-Holocene monsoon and bypass out of the basin. Rapid (up to 7 mm/yr) subsidence in Sylhet Basin has not acted as an attractor for channel steering during much of the Holocene. Instead, the Brahmaputra has followed the steepest descent path associated with flexural loading downstream of the hinge zone along the modern braidbelt.