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A Sub-Pennsylvanian Paleovalley System in the Central Appalachian Basin and its Implications for Tectonic and Eustatic Controls on the Origin of the Regional Mississippian-Pennsylvanian Unconformity

By
Jack D. Beuthin
Jack D. Beuthin
Department of Geology and Planetary Sciences, University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, Johnstown, Pennsylvania 15904
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Published:
January 01, 1994

Abstract

Paleodrainage mapping of the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian unconformity in northwestern West Virginia verifies the existence of an incised, sub-Pennsylvanian paleovalley system there that extends for over 130 km. The paleovalleys are filled mostly with quartzose sandstones of the New River Formation. This paleovalley system was carved by a southwest-draining network of rivers that was rejuvenated during the mid-Carboniferous. Bedload-dominated streams that occupied the paleovalleys deposited most of the valley-fill sediment.

Regional paleodrainage data indicate that the sub-Pennsylvanian paleovalleys in northwestern West Virginia form the middle reach of a major paleoriver system which includes the Middlesboro paleovalley in eastern Kentucky, the Sharon paleovalley in eastern Ohio, and the Perry paleovalley in southeastern Ohio. This regional paleodrainage network (herein named the Middlesboro-Sharon-Perry paleovalley system) transported sediment from the craton north of the central Appalachian basin to the mid-Carboniferous depocenter in southwestern Virginia. Although it has been previously suggested that maximum erosional development of the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian unconformity occurred during the Early Pennsylvanian, paleoslope considerations rule against an Early Pennsylvanian age for carving of the Middlesboro-Sharon-Perry paleovalley system. Existing biostratigraphic data from the mid-Carboniferous depocenter in southern West Virginia support the existence of an Upper Mississippian (Chokierian-Alportian stages of the Namurian Series) hiatus there, suggesting that incision of the Middlesboro-Sharon-Perry paleovalley system was dominantly a Late Mississippian (Chokierian-Alportian) event.

Uplift of the craton north of the central Appalachian basin combined with subsidence within the basin that increased in rate toward the mid-Carboniferous depocenter in southern West Virginia created the generally south-dipping paleoslope which the Middlesboro-Sharon-Perry paleoriver system drained. The regional paleodrainage picture rules against tectonic uplift of the Cincinnati arch as a key factor in driving the incision of the Middlesboro-Sharon-Perry paleovalley system. Carving of this paleovalley system apparently was driven by a previously documented, Late Mississippian (Chokierian-Alportian) eustatic sea-level drop. Regional tectonic uplift during the Early Pennsylvanian may have influenced erosional development of the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian after the Late Mississippian incision of the Middlesboro-Sharon-Perry paleodrainage system.

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Contents

SEPM Concepts in Sedimentology and Paleontology

Tectonic and Eustatic Controls on Sedimentary Cycles

John M. Dennison
John M. Dennison
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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Frank R. Ettensohn
Frank R. Ettensohn
University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
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SEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology
Volume
4
ISBN electronic:
9781565762275
Publication date:
January 01, 1994

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