Estimating the amount of eroded section in a partially exhumed basin from geophysical well logs: An example from the North Slope

Professional Paper 1732-D
By: , and 



The reconstruction of burial and thermal histories of partially exhumed basins requires an estimation of the amount of erosion that has occurred since the time of maximum burial. We have developed a method for estimating eroded thickness by using porosity-depth trends derived from borehole sonic logs of wells in the Colville Basin of northern Alaska. Porosity-depth functions defined from sonic-porosity logs in wells drilled in minimally eroded parts of the basin provide a baseline for comparison with the porosity-depth trends observed in other wells across the basin. Calculated porosities, based on porosity-depth functions, were fitted to the observed data in each well by varying the amount of section assumed to have been eroded from the top of the sedimentary column. The result is an estimate of denudation at the wellsite since the time of maximum sediment accumulation. Alternative methods of estimating exhumation include fission-track analysis and projection of trendlines through vitrinite-reflectance profiles. In the Colville Basin, the methodology described here provides results generally similar to those from fission-track analysis and vitrinite-reflectance profiles, but with greatly improved spatial resolution relative to the published fission-track data and with improved reliability relative to the vitrinite-reflectance data. In addition, the exhumation estimates derived from sonic-porosity logs are independent of the thermal evolution of the basin, allowing these estimates to be used as independent variables in thermal-history modeling.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Estimating the amount of eroded section in a partially exhumed basin from geophysical well logs: An example from the North Slope
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1732
Chapter D
DOI 10.3133/pp1732D
Year Published 2007
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center, Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
Description 18 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska, 2005
Time Range Start 2005-01-01
Time Range End 2005-12-31
Country United States
State Alaska
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details