Late Pleistocene and Holocene depositional trends, processes, and history of Astoria deep-sea fan, Northeast Pacific

Marine Geology


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The asymmetrical Astoria Fan (110 ?? 180 km) developed off the Columbia River and Astoria submarine canyon during the Pleistocene. Morphology, stratigraphy, and lithology have been outlined for a Pleistocene turbidite, and a Holocene hemipelagic sedimentary regime to generate geologically significant criteria for comparison with ancient equivalent deposits. Both gray silty clay of the Late Pleistocene and olive-gray clay of the Early Holocene are interrupted by turbidites. The few deeply incised fan valleys of the more steeply sloping upper fan contain thick, muddy and very poorly sorted sand and gravel beds that usually have poorly developed internal sedimentary structures. The numerous shallower fan valleys and distributaries of the flatter middle and lower fan contain thick, clean, and moderately sorted medium to fine sands that are vertically graded in texture, composition and well-developed internal sedimentary structures. Tuffaceous turbidites (containing Mazama ash, 6600 B.P.) can be traced as thick deposits (ca. 30-40 cm) throughout the Astoria Channel system and as thin correlative interbeds (ca. 1-2 cm) in interchannel areas. Similarly, sand/shale ratios are high throughout the fan valleys and the middle and lower fan areas of distributaries, but are low in the upper-fan interchannel areas. These depositional trends indicate that high-density turbidity currents carry coarse traction loads that remain confined in upper but not lower fan valleys. Fine debris selectively sorts out from channelized flows into overbank suspension flows that spread over the fan and deposit clayey silt. A high content of mica, plant fragments, and glass shards (if present) characterizes deposits of the overbank flows, a major process in the building of upper fan levees and interchannel areas. In the Late Pleistocene, turbidity currents funneled most coarse-grained debris through upper channels to depositional sites in middle and lower fan distributaries that periodically shifted, anastomosed and braided to spread sand layers throughout the area. At this time, depositional rates were many times greater (>50 cm/1000 years) than in the Holocene (8 cm/1000 years). During the Holocene rise of sea level, the shoreline shifted, the Columbia River sediment was trapped, and turbidity-current activity slackened from one major event per 6 years in the Late Pleistocene, to one per 1000 years in the Early Holocene, to none since the Mt. Mazama eruption (ca. 6600 B.P.). Turbidites became muddier and deposited as thick beds within main channels, in part explaining Holocene deposition rates three times greater there (25 cm/1000 years) than in interchannel regions. Turbid-layer debris, funneled through channel systems and trapped from flows off the continental terrace, also contributed to rapid sedimentation in valleys; however, less than 2% of the suspended sediment load of the Columbia River has been trapped in fan valleys during the Holocene. By the Late Holocene, continuous particle-by-particle deposition of hemipelagic clay with a biogenous coarse fraction was the predominant process on the fan. These hemipelagites contain progressively more clay size and less terrigenous debris offshore, and are finer grained, richer in planktonic tests and dominated by radiolarians compared to the foraminiferal-rich Pleistocene clays. The hemipelagic sedimentation of interglacial times, however, is insignificant compared to turbidite deposition of glacial times. ?? 1976.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Late Pleistocene and Holocene depositional trends, processes, and history of Astoria deep-sea fan, Northeast Pacific
Series title Marine Geology
Volume 20
Issue 2
Year Published 1976
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Marine Geology
First page 129
Last page 173
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