Shallow marine sediments offshore from the Brazos River, Texas

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Nienaber, James H., 1931-

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Bottom sediment from a 750-square-mile area offshore from the mouth of the Brazos River, Texas, has been analyzed statistically to determine the pattern and processes of sedimentation of the neritic environment and of a modern delta. The Brazos delta is characterized by topset beds of poorly sorted laminated sand, silt, and clay, foreset beds dipping at approximately 1° composed of fine sand grading downward (seaward) into clay, and poorly developed bottomset beds representing slow deposition of clay from the Brazos combined with reworking of material from a submerged Pleistocene deltaic plain. Interpretation of the sediment on the basis of its modal characteristics indicates that effective sorting by waves develops a unique uniform distribution of sediment types from the beach to a depth of 60 feet. Farther offshore from this depth exotic agents such as hurricanes and uncharted bottom currents are predominant and act to bring "obstacles" (topographic irregularities) into a marine profile of equilibrium. Maps of sediment types, mean size, inclusive standard deviation, inclusive skewness, and kurtosis precisely describe the geologic history of the surface sediments. Individual and bivariant plots of the statistical parameters are shown to be useful in determining direction to the shoreline as well as completely defining the modality of the sediment, which in effect defines the environment of deposition. Fluctuations in source area are reflected by the relation of mean size and depth. Heavy mineral distribution shows that the suite of durable minerals carried by the present Brazos River is diluting an existing widespread suite of less durable minerals characteristic of the Colorado River drainage area. Variation in clay mineral composition results from differential sedimentation and reflects source area, providing no evidence of alteration of the clay minerals during deposition by diagenesis.