A widely misused criterion to interpret lobe deposits in submarine fan systems at outcrop, and in core and well logs, is a thickening and/or coarsening upward profile. Lobe deposits from the Laingsburg depocentre, SW Karoo Basin, demonstrate that a full range of bed thickness patterns exists within lobes. When lobes are defined by their laterally extensive bounding surfaces that are marked by abrupt facies changes, five types of bed stacking patterns are identified: thickening upward, thinning upward, thickening then thinning upward, thinning then thickening upward, and constant. The abrupt bounding surfaces are interpreted to record avulsion of feeder distributive channels. The stratigraphic bed thickness pattern preserved in a lobe reflects the internal organization of smaller-scale lobe elements, rather than lobe-wide initiation and progradation as implied by a thickening-upward only pattern. The full range of bed thickness patterns in lobes can be used to understand the stacking of lobe elements, the evolution of sediment deposition through time and space, and the relative movement of depocentres.

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