Abstract

Deposits of fluvial systems in highly seasonal tropical climates possess unique architectural and facies characters owing to a flood-prone regime alternating with lengthy periods of ineffective discharge. Distally linked deltaic successions should also feature distinctive attributes, with great potential to preserve the stratigraphic evidence of exceptional discharge events. We describe Late Carboniferous delta-front, valley-confined sandstones from the Pennine Basin (UK), originally deposited at paleoequatorial latitudes during final assembly of the Pangean megacontinent and characterized by giant sedimentary structures with repetitively sigmoidal geometry. Facies traits indicate geologically instantaneous deposition of a large sediment volume from a density current at sustained supercritical-flow conditions, leading to aggradation of cyclic steps, recently identified bedforms developing in high-energy flows and of which this is the first complete outcrop example. The lack of unconformable erosional surfaces and absence of different associated facies point to a single aggradational event during which the structures attained dimensions comparable to those indicated by seismic data sets from which they are remotely detected on modern seafloors. Cyclic-step formation in a deltaic setting suggests that Pangean megamonsoons could have triggered hydrologic events capable of imprinting sedimentologic signatures on shallow-marine deposits.

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