High-frequency Quaternary glacioeustasy resulted in the incision of six moderate- to high-relief fluvial erosion surfaces beneath the Virginia inner shelf and coastal zone along the updip edges of the Atlantic continental margin. Fluvial valleys up to 5 km wide, with up to 37 m of relief and thalweg depths of up to 72 m below modern mean sea level, cut through underlying Pleistocene and Mio-Pliocene strata in response to drops in baselevel on the order of 100 m. Fluvially incised valleys were significantly modified during subsequent marine transgressions as fluvial drainage basins evolved into estuarine embayments (ancestral generations of the Chesapeake Bay). Complex incised-valley fill successions are bounded by, or contain, up to four stacked erosional surfaces (basal fluvial erosion surface, bay ravinement, tidal ravinement, and ebb-flood channel-base diastem) in vertical succession. These surfaces, combined with the transgressive oceanic ravinement that generally caps incised-valley fills, control the lateral and vertical development of intervening seismic facies (depositional systems). Transgressive stratigraphy characterizes the Quaternary section beneath the Virginia inner shelf where six depositional sequences (Sequences I-VI) are identified. Depositional sequences consist primarily of estuarine depositional systems (subjacent to the transgressive oceanic ravinement) and shoreface-shelf depositional systems; highstand systems tract coastal systems are thinly developed. The Quaternary section can be broadly subdivided into two parts. The upper part contains sequences consisting predominantly of inner shelf facies, whereas sequences in the lower part of the section consist predominantly of estuarine facies. Three styles of sequence preservation are identified. Style 1, represented by Sequences VI and V, is characterized by large estuarine systems (ancestral generations of the Chesapeake Bay) that are up to 40 m thick, have hemicylindrical wedge geometries, and occur within large, coast-oblique trending depressions (paleo-estuaries). Style 1 is dominated by fluvial through estuary-mouth depositional systems (Seismic Facies 1-4). Style 2 sequence preservation, represented by Sequences III and II, is dominantly an inner shelf and shoreface succession with a seaward-thickening tabular wedge geometry that does not exceed 15 m in thickness. These shoreface and inner shelf depositional systems of the upper transgressive systems tract (Seismic Facies 9) and highstand systems tract (Seismic Facies 7 and 11) are not associated with paleo-estuaries. Style 3 sequence preservation is represented by Sequence 1, the Holocene Sequence. It consists of lower transgressive systems tract fluvial-estuarine, lagoonal, and tidal-inlet fill deposits (Seismic Facies 1-6, and 8) overlain by upper transgressive systems tract shelf and shoreface sands (Seismic Facies 9). Style 3 has a crenulated wedge geometry, and is thickest beneath and seaward of the modern Chesapeake Bay mouth. It thins northward and landward onto Late Pleistocene interfluvial highs on the basinward side of the southern Delmarva Peninsula.
Additional publication details
Transgressive systems tract development and incised-valley fills within a quaternary estuary-shelf system: Virginia inner shelf, USA