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Major advances in siliciclastic sedimentary geology, 1960–2012

By
Ronald J. Steel
Ronald J. Steel
Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712-1692, USA
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Kitty L. Milliken
Kitty L. Milliken
Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712-1692, USA
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Published:
September 01, 2013

There was a new focus on “processes” within sedimentary geology from the 1960s. It was initially driven by alluvial-channel and flow-regime experiments, but led to the concept of facies succession for all depositional environments and eventually, on the larger scale, to a new stratigraphy in which base-level change was the key ingredient. Systematic study of modern environments led to a marked improvement in our knowledge of alluvial to deepwater sedimentary systems and how they are linked. New access to seismic data, especially on shelf margins and deep marine environments, was critical for further great changes in our understanding of marine processes and basin-scale products. Integration of new knowledge on rates and time scales in tectonics, climate dynamics, and sea-level change has been important for gleaning the signals of these drivers from the accumulated sedimentary successions. Current research, not least from geomorphic and stratigraphic experiments, is suggesting that autogenic responses in stratigraphy are more common and occur on longer time scales than formerly thought and will cause a rethink in sequence stratigraphy.

The past half-century of work in siliciclastic petrology has benefited from a broad consensus on classifications for sandstones and limestones that provided clarity on the roles of detrital and diagenetic components in compositional heterogeneity. Subsequent advances in provenance and diagenetic studies have both been driven by the availability of microanalytical tools for imaging and analysis of elements and isotopes. A petrographically based appreciation of the role of pervasive non-equilibrium and chemical kinetics underpins our current capabilities to make predictions of siliciclastic rock properties in the subsurface, creating a strong link between siliciclastic petrology and the global petroleum industry. Community consensus has yet to converge on classification for fine-grained siliciclastic rocks (shales, mudrocks, mudstones), but the compelling need for prediction of rock properties in unconventional reservoirs is presently driving much research into the causes of heterogeneity in this great class of sedimentary materials.

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GSA Special Papers

The Web of Geological Sciences: Advances, Impacts, and Interactions

Marion E. Bickford
Marion E. Bickford
Department of Earth Sciences, 204 Heroy Geology Laboratory, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244-1070, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
500
ISBN print:
9780813725000
Publication date:
September 01, 2013

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