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Abstract: Cyclicity and Stacking Patterns in Carboniferous Strata of the Black Warrior Foreland Basin

Jack C. Pashin

Cyclicity in Carboniferous stratigraphic successions has long been attributed to tectonism and climate, but the ways these variables interact to determine the architecture of sedimentary basin fills remain a subject of intense debate. Geophysical well logs and cores from the Black Warrior basin were used to test the effects of tectonism and climate on cyclicity and stacking patterns in a foreland-basin setting. The Black Warrior basin formed in Carboniferous time by diachronous tectonic loading of the Alabama continental promontory along the Appalachian-Ouachita juncture. Climatic changes affecting the basin during this time include drift of southeastern North America from the arid southern tradewind belt toward the humid equatorial belt, as well as the onset of a major Gondwana glaci tion just prior to the end of the Chesterian.

The fill of the Black Warrior basin comprises carbonate- and coal-bearing depositional cycles, and the composition, frequency, and stacking patterns of those cycles reflect dynamically interwoven tectonic and climatic factors. Tectonic loading evidently gave rise to flexural movements that determined cycle stacking patterns by controlling spatial and temporal variation of subsidence rate. Evolving tectonic highlands, moreover, fostered a shift from cratonic to orogenic sources of terrigenous clastic sediment, thereby affecting stratal geometry. Climate, by contrast, regulated the composition and frequency of the cycles. The transition from carbonate-bearing cycles with oxidized, calcic paleosols to coal-bearing cycles with reduced, histic paleosols reflects drift of southeastern North America into the humid equatorial belt. Change of average cycle duration from 1.3 m.y. to less than 0.4 m.y. corresponds with the onset of Gondwana glaciation, suggesting significant climatic forcing of sea level variation.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90983©1994 GCAGS and Gulf Coast SEPM 44th Annual Meeting, Austin, Texas, October 6-7, 1994