Fluvial, shoreline, and clastic wedge responses to foreland basin and Laramide style subsidence: Examples from experimental studies and the Greater Green River Basin, southern Wyoming
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Subsidence is one of the main factors controlling the stratigraphy and overall stratal architecture in tectonically active basins. This was particularly important in the Western US Cordilleran foreland and Laramide basins when some other controls were minor, e.g. reduced eustatic fluctuations in the late Cretaceous greenhouse period. The first part of the dissertation examines the upper Campanian Williams Fork Clastic Wedge (WFCW) in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado, through an outcrop and subsurface database. The WFCW built out from the Sevier orogenic belt like earlier clastic wedges, but its large-scale geometry changed as basement involved Laramide structures partitioned it. At the center of the WFCW there is an extensive fluvial sandstone sheet, the Canyon Creek Member of the Ericson Formation. From its proximal to distal reaches (~200 km) there is a first order trend of stratigraphic thickening and net-to-gross reduction, and a change from braided to meandering depositional style. These trends are caused by isostatic rebound of the foreland basin during periods of relative quiescence in the Sevier orogenic belt and by the eastward migration of dynamic subsidence. However, this long spatial trend was markedly modified by differential subsidence across Laramide-style structures. The Campanian age initiation of the Laramide structures appears to be earlier than the Maastrichtian to Paleogene age commonly attributed to the initiation of this orogeny. The second part of this research focuses on the transgressive limb of the WFCW, particularly on two sandstone bodies isolated in marine mudstones in the uppermost Almond Formation. The sandstone bodies previously interpreted as lowstand shoreline deposits are re-interpreted as transgressive shelf ridges generated by tidal currents and storm waves. There are limited examples of ancient tidal shelf ridges published and no facies model was described. Using Almond Fm. outcrops and examples from the literature, the diagnostic characteristics of storm and tidal shelf ridges are presented. The third part of the dissertation investigates the effects of differential subsidence on the large scale stratigraphic infill of a foreland basin through a geometric model and a series of flume experiments. The mathematical model and flume experiments show that despite constant allogenic forcing, three distinct autogenic responses in stratal architecture, associated with the imposed tectonic and sediment supply conditions are possible. The first response was “autoretreat”, where shoreline migration switched from initial progradation to retrogradation. The second response was progradation followed by constant aggradation. The third response was maintained progradation with a markedly accelerating rate, a new autogenic behavior termed “shoreline autoacceleration”.