Structural controls on evaporite paleokarst development : Mississippian Madison Formation, Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area, Wyoming and Montana

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Eldam, Nabiel S.

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This study provides new insights on the mechanisms that controlled the development of solution-enhanced fractures and suprastratal deformation associated with the Mississippian Madison Sequence IV evaporite paleokarst complex. Based on detailed field mapping utilizing LiDAR, GPS, and field observations, we document a paleostructural high (oriented 145º) associated with the Ancestral Rockies uplift within the study area. One hundred twenty-one sediment-filled, solution-enhanced fractures within the Seq. IV cave roof were mapped and characterized by their dominant fill type (Amsden or Madison) and vertical extent. Spatial analysis reveals minimum spacing of these features occurs in areas uplifted during the Late Paleozoic suggesting a link between paleostructural position and solution feature spacing. Shape analysis of these solution features also supports structural position during the Late Paleozoic acted as a dominant control on fracture morphology: (1) downward tapering and fully penetrative features concentrate in areas that experienced uplift; (2) upward tapering concentrate in areas that were undeformed. Mapping of Seq. IV cave roof strata demonstrates vertical collapse variability exceeds 22 m and fault intensity increases in areas of increased collapse. These findings have significant implications for prediction and characterization of solution-enhanced fractures and suprastratal deformation within evaporite paleokarst systems.



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