Abstract

In ancient storm-influenced prograding shoreline sequences, sole marks (mainly tool marks) from hummocky crossstratified storm deposits are commonly oriented normal to paleoshoreline and the trend of paleobathymetric contours in the basin. Asymmetrical tool marks typically indicate flows directed offshore. Several workers have attributed their formation to storm-generated, shallow marine turbidity currents. This interpretation conflicts with observations from modern shelves, where storm-driven circulation generally is geostrophically balanced, and time-averaged bottom currents approximately parallel bathymetric contours and the local shoreline. The resolution of these apparently conflicting observations may lie in the realization that tool marks (and many other small paleoflow indicators) form almost instantly as the result of instantaneous flow conditions very near the bed. Beneath storm-generated flows in the shallow ocean, instantaneous and time-averaged characteristics of the bottom boundary layer generally exhibit little similarity. Storm-generated tool marks are formed by the movement of large tools within the thin (less than 1 m) inner boundary layer resulting from the superimposition of waves and currents. The orientation of the peak instantaneous shear stress moving large tools under such combined flows mainly reflects wave-orbital motions, which typically are normal to shore. The magnitude of stress is greatly increased in the offshore direction (and decreased in the onshore direction) by superimposition of a steady current with an offshore component of flow, but the direction of stress is only slightly affected. In ancient storm-influenced sequences, therefore, shore-normal tool marks generally were not formed by turbidity currents; rather, their orientation is best attributed to shoaling waves approaching the coast at a very high angle. Asymmetrical tool marks are directed offshore due to enhanced shear stress on the offshore stroke of waves superimposed on a geostrophic current with an offshore flow component. Tool marks do not reflect the time-averaged bottom-flow direction; in fact, they provide almost no information concerning steady bottom currents. In contrast, high-angle cross-beds (formed in coarser sediment by the migration of dunes and sandwaves), although relatively rare in offshore storm deposits, generally reveal approximately shore-parallel flows in ancient systems. Cross-beds closely reflect the time-averaged flow direction in the outer boundary layer of a geostrophic current, for three reasons: 1) the net transport direction for sand moving as bed load beneath a combined flow lies between the directions of peak instantaneous shear stress and time-averaged shear stress; 2) large ripples disrupt the thin inner boundary layer; and 3) long time intervals (relative to wave-induced velocity oscillations) are required to form large ripples.

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