Cyclostratigraphy of Late Cambrian cyclic carbonates: An interbasinal field and modelling study, U.S.A.

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Virginia Tech


An interbasinal study of Late Cambrian cyclic carbonate successions in the Appalachian and Cordilleran passive margins, the Texas cratonic embayment and the southern Oklahoma aulacogen has provided controls on the simultaneous development of peritidal to subtidal meter-scale cycles and the larger scale depositional sequences on which they are superimposed. Fining-upward peritidal cycles grade seaward into coarsening-upward, shallow to deep subtidal cycles that form a continuum across the carbonate platforms and are genetically linked to one another by shared lithofacies. Eustacy appears to exert the dominant control on the simultaneous development of peritidal and subtidal cycles on different carbonate platforms. Based on the recognition of dominant periodicities on power spectra derived from time series of subtidal cycles, high frequency eustatic oscillations may be controlled by Milankovitch astronomical rhythms.

Interbasinal correlation of Late Cambrian depositional sequences was performed by graphic correlation and the time-equivalent intervals were correlated lithostratigraphically using isochronous biomere boundaries as time datums. Fischer plots of meter-scale cycles define changes in relative sea level based on the amount of extra accommodation space produced by eustacy beyond that provided by subsidence. Residual eustatic curves derived from subsidence analysis are useful for correlating the longer-term Late Cambrian sea level events and changes in the rate of sea level rise and fall can be used to define shorter-term events. Combining the sea level curves defined by Fischer plots and subsidence analysis with paleobathymetric curves of Late Cambrian cyclic strata suggests that the curves may approximate the form of the eustatic sea level curve. A composite "eustatic” sea level curve for the Late Cambrian was created by qualitatively combining the sea level curves defined by the different techniques for each of the four localities.

“Eustatic" sea level curves defined by Fischer plots and subsidence analysis may be used to apply sequence stratigraphic concepts to onedimensional outcrop sections. Combined with systematic changes in the stacking patterns of meter-scale cycles, they can be used to define the internal composition of systems tracts, sequence boundaries, and flooding surfaces of third-order depositional sequences.

One- and two-dimensional models of peritidal and subtidal cycle development indicate that peritidal cycle thickness is primarily controlled by accommodation space and deeper subtidal cycle thickness is primarily controlled by sedimentation rate. Whereas lithofacies within peritidal cycles alternate in response to fluctuations in sea level, subtidal cycle development may be related to fluctuations in fairweather and storm wave base that oscillate in harmony with sea level fluctuations.