Development of a palaeovalley complex on a Late Ordovician glaciated margin in NW Saudi Arabia
Published:January 01, 2019
S. Tofaif, D. P. Le Heron, J. Melvin, 2019. "Development of a palaeovalley complex on a Late Ordovician glaciated margin in NW Saudi Arabia", Glaciated Margins: The Sedimentary and Geophysical Archive, D.P. Le Heron, K.A. Hogan, E.R. Phillips, M. Huuse, M.E. Busfield, A.G.C. Graham
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Late Ordovician glacial deposits are of great importance in North Africa and the Middle East as a result of their significance as reservoirs for hydrocarbons and groundwater. The sedimentary record of this glaciation in NW Saudi Arabia (the Sarah Formation) is generally preserved in meridionally oriented palaeovalleys cut beneath northward-flowing ice sheets. In the Tabuk region of NW Saudi Arabia, an apparently intersecting complex of north–south- and east–west-oriented palaeovalleys occurs in the Alwizam area. Field relationships show two generations of palaeovalley incision, suggesting that the north–south-oriented palaeovalley was cut subglacially, filled, subsequently deformed and then cross-cut by the east–west-oriented palaeovalley. Abundant facetted and striated quartzite clasts occur at the base of each palaeovalley, testifying to a subglacial origin. Detailed examination of the north–south-oriented palaeovalley shows it to be well-defined with symmetrical sides. Its fill is composed of nine lithofacies grouped into four facies associations. About 80% of the fill consists of three sandstone facies: a parallel-bedded massive sandstone, a stacked scoured sandstone and a massive sandstone. Centimetre-scale extensional faults developed in soft sediments are commonly found throughout the stratigraphy, along with a glacially striated surface seen mid-way through the succession. These features provide evidence for direct ice contact, synglacial fill, and consequent reworking, cannibalization and deformation by the fluctuating ice margin.
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Glaciated Margins: The Sedimentary and Geophysical Archive
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Understanding the sedimentary and geophysical archive of glaciated margins is a complex task that requires integration and analysis of disparate sedimentological and geophysical data. Their analysis is vital for understanding the dynamics of past ice sheets and how they interact with their neighbouring marine basins, on timescales that cannot be captured by observations of the cryosphere today. As resources, sediments deposited on the inner margins of glaciated shelves also exhibit resource potential where more sand-dominated systems occur, acting as reservoirs for both hydrocarbons and water. This book surveys the full gamut of glaciated margins, from deep time (Neoproterozoic, Ordovician and Carboniferous–Permian) to modern high-latitude margins in Canada and Antarctica. This collection of papers is the first attempt to deliberately do this, allowing not only the similarities and differences between modern and ancient glaciated margins to be explored, but also the wide spectrum of their mechanisms of investigation to be probed. Together, these papers offer a high-resolution, spatially and temporally diverse blueprint of the depositional processes, ice sheet dynamics, and basin architectures of the world’s former glaciated margins; a vital resource in advancing understanding of our present and future marine-terminating ice sheet margins.