Physical modeling of a prograding delta on a mobile substrate : dynamic interactions between progradation and deformation
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The subsurface architecture of a prograding delta on a mobile substrate (e.g., salt) is a product of the complex interplay between deposition and subsidence. Previous studies focused mainly on structural deformation of a salt layer in response to tectonic forcing, leaving the dynamic feedback between sedimentation and subsidence unexplored. We present results from physical experiments of delta progradation on a mobile substrate. Five carefully designed experiments were performed to understand the effects of delta progradation rate on the shape and dimension of salt deformation and associated delta deposition. All of the runs had constant sediment and water discharges, but the water depth and mobile substrate thickness varied from 1 cm to 3 cm and from 2 cm to 4 cm, respectively. The results showed that increasingly deeper water depths slowed the shoreline progradation rate, while increasingly thinner salt thickness accelerated delta progradation. The experimental results also provided a wide range of shoreline advance and subsidence rates that show changes in the shape and dimension of the salt deformation structure. Runs with fast shoreline progradation showed isolated salt domes developed internally on the delta plain and a rough platform pattern along the shoreline due to lobes built by channel flow between upwelled salt structures. However, runs with slow shoreline progradation developed long connected salt ridges around the toe of the delta, limiting sediment transport beyond the ridges. This overall pattern in salt structures is time dependent. As a delta surface grows larger and the shoreline progradational rate autogenically decreases with time, chances to develop isolated salt domes decrease but more connected long salt ridges occur. Physical modeling of a delta on a mobile substrate is important in predicting the mechanism for large-scale salt basin stratigraphy under a high sediment supply that interacts with the substrate.