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Sedimentary facies and depositional environments of early Mesozoic Newark Supergroup basins, eastern North America

Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology

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Abstract

The early Mesozoic Newark Supergroup consists of continental sedimentary rocks and basalt flows that occupy a NE-trending belt of elongate basins exposed in eastern North America. The basins were filled over a period of 30-40 m.y. spanning the Late Triassic to Early Jurassic, prior to the opening of the north Atlantic Ocean. The sedimentary rocks are here divided into four principal lithofacies. The alluvial-fan facies includes deposits dominated by: (1) debris flows; (2) shallow braided streams; (3) deeper braided streams (with trough crossbeds); or (4) intense bioturbation or hyperconcentrated flows (tabular, unstratified muddy sandstone). The fluvial facies include deposits of: (1) shallow, ephemeral braided streams; (2) deeper, flashflooding, braided streams (with poor sorting and crossbeds); (3) perennial braided rivers; (4) meandering rivers; (5) meandering streams (with high suspended loads); (6) overbank areas or local flood-plain lakes; or (7) local streams and/or colluvium. The lacustrine facies includes deposits of: (1) deep perennial lakes; (2) shallow perennial lakes; (3) shallow ephemeral lakes; (4) playa dry mudflats; (5) salt-encrusted saline mudflats; or (6) vegetated mudflats. The lake margin clastic facies includes deposits of: (1) birdfoot deltas; (2) stacked Gilbert-type deltas; (3) sheet deltas; (4) wave-reworked alluvial fans; or (5) wave-sorted sand sheets. Coal deposits are present in the lake margin clastic and the lacustrine facies of Carnian age (Late Triassic) only in basins of south-central Virginia and North and South Carolina. Eolian deposits are known only from the basins in Nova Scotia and Connecticut. Evaporites (and their pseudomorphs) occur mainly in the northern basins as deposits of saline soils and less commonly of saline lakes, and some evaporite and alkaline minerals present in the Mesozoic rocks may be a result of later diagenesis. These relationships suggest climatic variations across paleolatitudes, more humid to the south where coal beds are preserved, and more arid in the north where evaporites and eolian deposits are common. Fluctuations in paleoclimate that caused lake levels to rise and fall in hydrologically closed basins are preserved as lacustrine cycles of various scales, including major shifts in the Late Triassic from a wet Carnian to an arid Norian. In contrast, fluvial deposits were mainly formed in response to the tectonic evolution of the basins, but to some extent also reflect climatic changes. The Newark Supergroup illustrates the complexity of rift-basin sedimentation and the problems that may arise from using a single modern analog for sedimentary deposition spanning millions of years. It also shows that a tremendous wealth of depositional, climatic, and tectonic information is preserved in ancient rift-basin deposits which can be recovered if the depositional processes of modern rift-basin deposits are understood. ?? 1991.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Sedimentary facies and depositional environments of early Mesozoic Newark Supergroup basins, eastern North America
Series title:
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Volume
84
Issue:
1-4
Year Published:
1991
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
First page:
369
Last page:
423
Number of Pages:
55