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Rivers in the Rock Record: From Utah to Wales

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Natalie Forrest.

River deposits form an important component of the sedimentary rock record. They are crucial for the interpretation of ancient environments, climatic regimes, and long-term patterns in weathering and erosion. However, we know that modern river deposits can be extremely complex in their architecture, which is not demonstrated in classic geological models. This complexity is due to the ways that meandering rivers change on both short and long timescales due to climate changes, oxbow lake formation, and other factors. It is particularly challenging to interpret the shape of meandering rivers from vertical exposures of rock successions. How can we reconstruct the complex “plan-view” shapes of rivers, when we usually only see vertical stacks of sediment exposed in rock faces? Furthermore, within the river deposits, we need to understand where mud and sand is distributed so that we can correctly interpret seismic profiles, and predict the likely distribution of petroleum resources. Here, I will present quantitative data collected from modern rivers with markedly differing morphologies has been enabled the development of a robust, novel methodology for more accurately interpreting the rock record. Measurements of 35 morphometric parameters of 200 active meander bends from 13 different rivers were acquired using Google Earth Pro. An ancient point-bar deposit, from the Pennsylvanian in Wales, served as a test data set for accurate reconstruction of meander morphology. The work has found that the novel methodologies utilised in this study, can enable meandering rivers to be more accurately interpreted from our fragmented geologic record.

This talk is part of the Sedgwick Club talks series.

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