Many of the Carboniferous coals in the eastern interior of the US are associated with siliciclastic roof facies that were deposited within a fluvio-estuarine transition. These facies include a variety of rhythmites, some of which exhibit tidal cycles. Drier-interval coals (Westphalian B-C, Stephanian) tend to be more laterally restricted and more commonly are associated with paleovalleys. Conversely, wetter-interval coals (Westphalian D) are very widespread and are not restricted to paleovalleys. Throughout the Lake Carboniferous, wet paleoclimates associated with these coals lead to valley incision during sea-level lowstand when large tropical rivers downcut older sediments deposited during previous sea-level highstands. During subsequent rise of sea level, these fluvial valleys were flooded and converted to estuaries where tidal ranges and sedimentation rates were significantly amplified. Based on modern analogs and interpretation of many examples of Carboniferous tidal rhythmites, the localized depositional rates in these settings are exceptionally high. The estuaries became sediment sinks, trapping sediment that is pumped in from both fluvial and marine sources. As a result, sedimentation readily keeps pace with rising baselevel. Extensive intertidal flats and shallow subtidal flats are created and prograde over the valley-confined mires. Thick tidal cycles and upright trees (some with attached foliage) record rapid burial of mires. This model is supported with examples of roof facies from the Westphalian B-C of the Eastern Interior Basin, and the Stephanian of the Western Interior Basin. In these areas facies within each cycle range from well-developed, extensive paleosols and coals, to widespread marine shales or limestones. Variations in both sea level and climate resulted in a complex history of valley fill during which coals could be developed at any time (except during widespread flooding). Minable, low-sulfur and low-ash coals occur, but the coals are relatively thin and discontinuous. Conversely, the Westphalian D coals are very widespread and significant peat accumulations were not confined to paleovalleys. Nonetheless, the lowest sulfur coals are related to rapid deposition of roof facies that occurred within the paleovalley whereas high-sulfur coals were formed in areas of lower sedimentation rate of roof facies that occurred beyond the confines of the paleovalley. ?? 1994.
Additional publication details
Comparison of drier- to wetter-interval estuarine roof facies in the Eastern and Western Interior coal basins, USA