Abstract

Upper Cretaceous limestone-shale couplets developed within the late transgressive stage of the Greenhorn cyclothem may be correlated from carbonate-dominated (basinal) sequences in central Kansas and Colorado westward to clastic cycles in southern Utah. Six such basinal couplets have been traced to corresponding upward-coarsening progradational cycles developed on the western margin of the Western Interior basin. In the central basin in Colorado and Kansas, these sedimentary cycles are represented by limestone-shale and marlstone-shale couplets ∼0.5-1.0 m in thickness. More calcareous parts of these couplets may be correlated westward into condensed, fossiliferous concretion and shell beds in proximal offshore lithofacies of Arizona and Utah. These concretion and shell beds are physically traceable farther landward (westward) into bioturbated, fossil-rich, transgressive lag deposits that bound 10- to 20-m-thick coarsening-upward progradational strand-plain deposits (parasequences) in southwestern Utah. Thus, the progra-dational phase of parasequence deposition correlates with accumulation of clay-rich sediment in the central basin, and the transgressive phase is characterized by reduced terrigenous input and deposition of carbonate-rich sediment.

We consider Milankovitch-style orbital forcing of climate and tectonically induced fluctuations in rates of foredeep basin subsidence as possible forcing mechanisms for these basinwide events. Based on the widespread distribution of the limestone-shale couplets, as well as on estimated sedimentation rates and geochronology, it has been widely speculated that these carbonate cycles reflect Milankovitch cycles with periodicities on the order of 20 k.y. to 100 k.y. If so, then stratigraphic data suggest that orbital forcing of climate affected eustasy and/or sediment input and biogenic production in the Western Interior basin. Alternatively, thrusting events in the Sevier orogenic belt may have produced episodic changes in the rates of foredeep basin subsidence and consequent changes in base level, which could have controlled the deposition of the Greenhorn parasequences and carbonate cycles. In either case, correlation of these units demonstrates a consistent basinwide sedimentary response to high-frequency base level or sediment input changes in the Western Interior epicontinental basin.

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