Small diameter core samples were taken from outcrops of the Permian Phosphoria Formation and the Cretaceous Pierre Shale of the Western United States to determine the effects of weathering on organic matter in shale outcrops. While the Pierre Shale core showed no evidence of weathering, the Phosphoria Formation showed significant reduction of overall organic content and pronounced changes in organic composition over the near-surface interval of the core. Total organic carbon is lower by as much as 60% over the upper 2 ft of the core. Chloroform-soluble organic matter and total hydrocarbon (C15+) concentrations are 50% lower over this same interval. The ratio of saturated to aromatic hydrocarbons decreases steadily with core depth over the upper 2.6 ft of the core. Aromatic hydrocarbons are enriched in the stable carbon-13 isotope by an average of 1.7%. over this same interval. Shallow core samples also show a loss of n-paraffins relative to branched/cyclic compounds in the saturated C15+ fraction. Although the extent of weathering is variable, certain characteristic effects are recognizable and can be applied to the interpretation of outcrop data in organic geochemical studies. ?? 1978.
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Subaerial weathering of sedimentary organic matter