Abstract

The Sunnyside Member of the Upper Cretaceous Blackhawk Formation in the Book Cliffs of eastern Utah provides an ideal opportunity to investigate high-resolution sequence-stratigraphic correlation between shallow-marine and terrestrial strata in an area of outstanding outcrop exposure. The thick, laterally extensive coal seam that caps the Sunnyside Member is critical for correlating between its shallow-marine and terrestrial components. Petrographic analysis of 281 samples obtained from 7 vertical sections spanning more than 30 km (18 mi) of depositional dip enabled us to recognize a series of transgressive-regressive coal facies trends in the seam. On this basis, we were able to identify a high-resolution record of accommodation change throughout the deposition of the coal, as well as a series of key sequence-stratigraphic surfaces. The stratigraphic relationships between the coal and the siliciclastic components of the Sunnyside Member enable us to correlate this record with that identified in the time-equivalent shallow-marine strata and to demonstrate that the coal spans the formation of two marine parasequences and two high-frequency, fourth-order sequence boundaries. This study has important implications for improving the understanding of sequence-stratigraphic expression in terrestrial strata and for correlating between marine and terrestrial records of base-level change. It may also have implications for improving the predictability of vertical and lateral variations in coal composition for mining and coalbed methane projects.

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