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Deltaic Depositional

Systems
Modern and
Ancient

Arno River Delta (Med)


(a wave dominated and engineered delta)
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Deltaic Depositional Systems


Locus of voluminous terrigenous clastic sediment
accumulation where fluvial dispersal systems
encounter standing water
Most common in subsiding basin-settings (passive
continental margins) where major river systems
transport large volumes of sediment.

Modern Gulf of Mexico


And the Mississippi River Delta
(a river dominated delta)

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Deltas
Rivers

flow seaward
change slope and velocity
carry a sediment load.

When river empties into coastal body of water


velocity slows
sediments are deposited.

Herodotus (c. 400 BC) - thought the alluvial


plain at mouth of Nile looked like a

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W. W. Norton

TheNileOriginal

Modified from Hamblin and Christiansen,

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Importance Of Deltas
Site of substantial fossil fuel resource accumulation
Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas

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Importance Of Deltas
Diverse and prolific ecosystems
Common site of large human population centers

Nile River Delta (Med Sea)


(an engineered, wave/river dominated delta)

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Tigris&Euphrates River Delta (Persian Gulf)

Main Geological Characteristics


Of Deltas
Isopach thick... major stratigraphic component of
(Terrigenous Clastic) sedimentary basin fill
Mississippi Delta

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Main Geological Characteristics


Of Deltas
Regressive - Progradational successions
Abandonment Transgressive Stage

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Main Geological Characteristics


Of Deltas
Contemporaneous non-marine - marginal marine - to basinal
depositional systems
Numerous sub-environments (each of a scale similar to that of
most other depositional systems)

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Delta Overview
Deltas grow steadily from a point source
Course bedload most proximal
channel and mouth bar subenvironments

Fines more distal from point source


Overall pattern:
coarse
\\\\ medium fine very fine
Builds out such that fines are offshore
leads to COARSENING UPWARDS

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Delta progradation
cross-section results as clastics are
deposited in the sub environments
sediments builds out
PROGRADES INTO BASIN

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DeltaMorphology
Function of most dominant process
Elongate

little reworking of sediments; levies form, builds


out into basin

Lobate

better reworking (tidal); more blunt shape

Cuspate

water concentrates its energy to oppose wave


action
each ridge is built as it moves out and progrades

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Delta Types
Constructional Deltas

Dominated by the fluvial


system

strongly
progradational/regressive

Lobate Elongate

Destructional Deltas
Dominated by marine
processes

common marine reworking


with transgressive
intervals

Cuspate (transitional to
interdeltaic systems)
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Main Processes Influencing


Delta Depositional Systems
Climate
Relief
Fluvial Discharge (water volume and
time variation)
Sediment load and type
River mouth processes
Tidal Processes
Wave energy
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Subenvironments
Delta plain/ delta top
Delta Channels
Floodplain

Delta front environments


Delta Front
Prodelta
Foredelta

Marginal (distal)
Offshore
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Delta plain/ top


Channels and flood plain
part of the fluvial
environment
rivers not quite to sea

Delta Channels

coarsest sediments in
channels
carries sediments across
delta top/ delta plain

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Floodplain/ over-bank
areas
suspended sediments
settle out during floods
Vegetated
possible accumulation of
peat

crevasse splays
lead to sand lenses on
surface

interdisciplinary bays
sheltered areas on delta
plain near delta front
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Delta Front Environments


Delta front
Include river channel
silts and sands
Proximal

Prodelta
silty and clay

Foredelta
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Delta front environments


Riverchannel

Siteofdepositionofbedload
Formssubaqueousmouthbar
coarsensup
coarsesedimentsreworkedbytides,wave
actions
wateroftenbrackish

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Deltafrontenvironments
Prodelta
finest grained sediments
aided by plume of sediment rich water that
extends across delta front
blankets area with fine grains
suspended sediments

some coarser sediments from turbidites

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Deltafrontenvironments

Delta slope

inclined area in front of delta top

Slope delta front is related to grain size


Coarse grains make steep slope

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up to 35 angle of repose

Fine grains (silty clay) is <1 slope


Fines increase away from river

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GallowayClassification
Galloway (1975): 3 factors of constraint
fluvial dominated (sediment input)
wave dominated (wave Energy)
tidal dominated (tidal Energy)
Mississippi
Rhone
Ganges

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(fluvial)
(wave)
(tidal)

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River Dominated

Modified from Hamblin and Christiansen,


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1988

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Wave Dominated Delta

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Ganges- Tide Dominated

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Main Delta Sedimentary Facies


Generic River-Dominated Delta Model

large rivers
broad shelf
low wave energy
low tidal range

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Main Delta Sedimentary Facies


Generic River-Dominated Delta Model
Upper Delta Plain
above highest high
tide

low gradient/
meandering river
systems
fresh water lakes
swamps

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Main Delta Sedimentary Facies


Generic River-Dominated Delta Model
Lower delta plain
between the tides

Distributary channels
Inter-distributary
bay fill
levees

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Main Delta Sedimentary Facies


Generic River-Dominated Delta Model
Subaqueous Delta
(Delta Front)
below lowest low tide

distributary mouth
bar - bar finger
sands
bays

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Delta Front Progradation

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Main Delta Sedimentary Facies


Generic River-Dominated Delta Model
Prodelta
Offshore transitional
to open marine

Normal Marine Shelf


High biological
productivity

Abundant slumps and


syndepositional
deformation

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Transgressive Mississippi Delta Model

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Transgressive Mississippi Delta Model

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Wavedominateddeltas
Wave dominated

wind- driven waves agitate surface


rework sediments in shallow water
affects mouth bars in basin and mouth of river
modifies river dominated delta

Morphology limits progradation


cant form sub-aqueous levees

bedload is immediately reworked


if waves hit obliquely (and usually do), get lateral migration
of sediments and development of spits

beach and mouth bars form // to coast


waves sort grains
mouth bar is better sorted sediments

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Generic Wave Dominated Delta Model


High wave energy, open coasts, strong longshore
currents

Non-marine, swamp to
Eolian dune
Arcuate to strandparallel sand dominated
facies, barrier island
sequences

Rhone River Delta (Med)

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(a wave dominated delta)

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Wavedominateddeltas
Progradation
waves dont transport ALL material from
river mouth
mouth bars build to form new beaches
River mouth bars arent as continuous and
have more overbank deposits
probably similar delta slope and front

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Tidedominateddeltas
Tide dominated

onshore/offshore currents move bedload/


suspended load back and forth
very different features
delta plain
tidal currents are bidirectional

Herringbone cross-bedding
Mud lenses as suspended sediments settles out in slack
tide

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lots of sediment in surface in form of tidal flats


lobate shape to mouth bars; perpendicular to shore
look for bi-directional flow indicators
can confuse with estuarine systems
look at over all sequences
delta is progradational; estuary often retogradational

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Generic Tide Dominated Delta Model


High Tidal Range

Extensive lower delta


plain/tidal mudflats
Shore perpendicular,
elongate sand dominated
facies, tidal channel
deposits
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Ganges - Brahmaputra River Delta


(Indian Ocean)
(a tide dominated delta)

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Tidedominateddeltas
Coarse grained deltas
bodies of gravelly detritus that form on
margins of lakes and seas
needs braided river or alluvial fan

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Environmental Issues in Modern Deltas


Damming, Dredging, Diverting

Coastal Land loss (erosion/subsidence)


Coastal Pollution
Nutrient loading,
anoxic events

Petroleum contamination

Habitat Destruction
land loss,
contamination, and
development

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Environmental Issues in Modern Deltas


Mississippi Delta Coastal Land loss

Louisiana's coastal wetlands, a national resource


supporting 30% of the nation's fisheries and
most of the wintering ducks in the Mississippi
Flyway, are at risk from the annual conversion of
an estimated 35-45 mi2 of wetlands to open
water. Louisiana's wetland loss rate is the
highest of any state in the nation. The processes
causing wetland loss in coastal Louisiana are
complex and varied.

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