Patterns of infull and basin-scale architecture : Tyee Forearc Basin, and observation from a segment of New Jersey passive margin



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The well-known clinoformal geometry of a basin-fill, with an alluvial to shelf segment, deep-water slope segment, and a basin floor segment, arises from the development of a wedge-shaped body of sediment at the basin-margin that has been termed a basin-margin wedge or a shelf-slope sedimentary prism. The basin-margin wedge characteristically has atopset-foreset clinoformal geometry, with its topset dominated by alluvial, coastal and shelfal processes, while its foreset is dominated by turbidite sedimentation. Tectonic configuration of the basin, sediment supply, and relative sea level variation are some of the major factors that control the development and growth of the basin-margin wedge. This dissertation documents two distinct stages of development of the basin-margin wedge at an Eocene active margin, and relates the observed variability in the nature of the shelf-margin, deep-water slope, and basin-floor deposits with these stages. The Tyee Basin in western Oregon was a forearc basin that was filled during late early Eocene and Middle Eocene under greenhouse climatic condition. The sedimentary succession of the Tyee Basin include continental, shallow-marine and deep-water sandstones that are well exposed in Coast Range area of Oregon. The variability observed within the thick and laterally extensive turbidite sandstones of the Tyee Basin led to contrasting depositional models for the Tyee basin in the past. Notably, the submarine ramp model, which provides an alternative model for deepwater coarse clastic deposition, was proposed based on the sedimentary succession of the Tyee Basin. Reconstruction of the clinoformal geometry of the Tyee Basin succession from detailed field data (more than 1000 outcrop locations) and subsurface data reveals two distinct stages of development of this active basin-margin. Each stage has a distinct style of clinoform development and a distinct character of associated sandy deepwater deposits. At the initial stage the basin-margin clinoforms appear to be small (< 250m clinoform height) and strongly progradational, with clinoform topset dominated by the feeder fluvial deposits. At this stage, sandy unconfined (not channelized) turbidite deposits accumulated on the Tyee deepwater slope and extended to the Tyee basin-floor. Large scale sediment conduits on the deepwater slope, in the form of slope channels or canyons, are notably absent in this stage. The second stage is characterized by larger clinoform height (> 500m), higher degree of topset aggradation with repeated fluvio-deltaic cycles on the shelf, and spectacular, sand-rich, well-organized turbidite channels and canyons on the slope. The slope channels active at this stage supplied coarse sediments to the basin-floor to form unusually thick basin-floor fans. The first infill stage represents the embryonic development of a basin-margin wedge on the Tyee continental margin, and could have some similarity with the previously mentioned submarine ramp model. But this was followed by a much longer period of basin-filling when repeated fluvial and shallow-marine cycles formed on the shelf and well-organized turbidite channels were active on the slope supplying sands to the Tyee Basin floor fans. It was concluded that the two stages of development of the basin-margin wedge in the Tyee Basin is controlled largely by the configuration of the basin, that is a result of the prominent topographic/bathymetric features in oceanic basement underlying the sedimentary succession of the Tyee Basin. Tectonically active hinterland and greenhouse climate may have contributed to a relatively high sediment supply to the basin. The relatively small-amplitude sea level variations expected under greenhouse climatic condition of the Early to Middle Eocene are likely to have relatively minor effect on the architecture of the basin-fill. The present work on Tyee Basin builds on earlier research on this basin, but now establishes a ground trothed clinoformal growth model, revises the existing interpretation of sediment transport direction during a major part of the basin-filling history, and demonstrates a two-stage evolution of margin accretion. The observations from the active Tyee Basin was compared and contrasted with a latest Pleistocene sediment wedge on the New Jersey outer shelf. This sediment wedge, developed under icehouse climatic condition, and on a passive margin, was studied using high resolution seismic data (CHIRP). In contrast to the sedimentary succession of the Tyee Basin, the depositional architecture of the sediment wedge on outer New Jersey shelf, which was interpreted as a set of falling stage deltaic clinothems, appears to be strongly controlled by eustatic sea level variation of latest Pleistocene.