Abstract

The early to middle Eocene Green River Formation consists of continental strata deposited in Laramide ponded basins in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. This study (1) documents fluvial and lacustrine strata from the Douglas Creek and Parachute Creek members of the middle Green River Formation, southeastern Uinta Basin, Utah, and (2) uses new interpretations of the link between climate and fluvial sedimentary expression to interpret the terrestrial evolution of early Eocene climate. The stratigraphy was analyzed via outcrops along a 10 km transect in Main Canyon on the Tavaputs Plateau, and is divided into three distinct, stratigraphically separated depositional settings: (1) the lowermost Interval 1 is dominated by amalgamated sandstone channels that contain 70–100% upper-flow-regime sedimentary structures. The channels are interpreted to represent fluvial deposits controlled by a highly seasonal climate, where most deposition was limited to seasonal flooding events. (2) Interval 2 is dominated by alternating siliciclastic and carbonate lacustrine deposits, interpreted as local pulsed fluvial siliciclastic input into shallow Lake Uinta, and periods of fluvial quiescence represented by littoral carbonate deposition. (3) The uppermost Interval 3 is dominated by erosionally-based, trough cross bedded sandstone channels interbedded with littoral lacustrine and deltaic deposits. The Interval 3 sandstone channels are interpreted as perennial fluvial deposits with relatively little variation in annual discharge, akin to modern humid-temperate fluvial systems. The stratigraphic transition from seasonally controlled (Interval 1) to perennial (Interval 3) fluvial deposits is interpreted to represent a fundamental shift in Eocene climate, from the peak hyperthermal regime of the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO) to a more stable post-EECO climate.

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