Two contrasting concepts specifying the age and duration of the hiatus resulting from a mid-Carboniferous eustatic event in the eastern United States are based on different evidence. The original model indicated that the hiatus is at an unconformity in cratonic areas that was assumed to coincide with the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian boundary at the contact between the Mississippian Bluestone Formation and the Pennsylvanian Pocahontas Formation in the Appalachian foreland basin. This concept was adhered to exclusively until 1969 and continues to reappear in reports dealing with global correlations and division of the Carboniferous into the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian Systems. This division is at a major eustatic event that supposedly occurred at about 330 Ma in scattered parts of the world, including the Appalachian basin. An alternative concept, fully supported by geologic mapping and biostratigraphic studies, indicates that the unconformity and associated hiatus are much younger because they originate in the Appalachian foreland basin in the lower part (upper Namurian) of the Lower Pennsylvanian New River Formation, about 260 m above the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian boundary. The duration of this hiatus increases in a northwesterly direction onto the cratonic shelf because the unconformity progressively truncated the underlying Lower Pennsylvanian and Upper Mississippian successions. The westward onlap of Pennsylvanian strata onto the eroded surface resulted in a hiatus from the Early Mississippian (Tournaisian) to the Middle Pennsylvanian (Westphalian B). The systemic boundary, which is in a depositional continuous sequence of strata in the Appalachian foreland basin, was correlated biostratigraphically by Pfefferkorn and Gillespie in 1982 with Gothan's "Florensprung" (floral break) described in 1913 at the Namurian A-B boundary in the Upper Silesian basin. An intra-Namurian erosive event was noted also in the Upper Silesian basin by Havlena, who reported in 1982 that an intra-Namurian erosive contact occurs well above the Florensprung. The origin of the Florensprung in depositional continuous strata has been attributed to tectonism, environment, or climate. However, spherules found in depositional continuous strata near the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian boundary in the Appalachian basin indicate that the effect of an asteroid impact may be the underlying cause for the biodiversity noted at the systemic boundary.
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Relation of the lower Pennsylvanian unconformity to a mid-carboniferous eustatic event in the eastern United States