ABSTRACT

Recognition and interpretation of sedimentary structures is fundamental to understanding sedimentary processes. Banded sandstones are an enigmatic sedimentary facies comprising alternating mud-rich (as matrix and/or mud clasts) and cleaner sand layers. The juxtaposition of hydrodynamically different grain sizes contradicts established models of cleaner-sand bedform development. Here, outcrop, subsurface core, and petrographic data from three deep-water systems, with well-constrained paleogeographic contexts, are used to describe the range of sedimentary textures, bedform morphologies, and facies associations, and to quantify the mud content of banding. Banding can occur in any part of a bed (base, middle, or top), but it typically overlies a structureless basal sandstone or mud-clast conglomerate lag, and is overlain by clean parallel-laminated sandstone and/or ripple cross-lamination. Banding morphology ranges from sub-parallel to bedforms that comprise low-angle laminae with discontinuous lenses of mudstone, or asymmetric bedforms comprising steeply dipping foresets that transition downstream into low-amplitude bedwaves, or steeply dipping ripple-like bedforms with heterolithic foresets. This style of banding is interpreted as a range of bedforms that form progressively in the upper-stage plane-bed flow regime via tractional reworking beneath mud-laden transitional plug flows. The balance of cohesive and turbulent forces, and the rate of flow deceleration (aggradation rate), govern the style of deposit. Banded sandstones and linked debrites are rarely found juxtaposed together in the same bed because they are distributed preferentially in proximal and distal settings, respectively. Understanding the origins of banding in turbidite sandstones, the conditions under which it forms, and its distribution across deep-water systems and relationship to linked debrites, is important for it to be used effectively as a tool to interpret the geological record.

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