A geophysical characterization of New River terrace deposits in Giles County, Virginia

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Virginia Tech

A series of geologically recent faults was discovered within a folded succession of stratified alluvial sediments, commonly referred to as New River terrace deposits, near the town of Pembroke in Giles County, southwest Virginia.

Geological and geophysical investigations were utilized to characterize the terrace deposits and investigate the nature of the observed faults. Geologic mapping of the underlying carbonate bedrock provided orientation measurements of fault, bedding, and joint planes; however, none of the features mapped within the bedrock could be directly correlated with the observed faults.

The results of geophysical studies suggest significant variations in lithology within the alluvial sediments. Seismic velocities (P-wave) obtained from reversed seismic refraction profiles range from 900-1700 meters/second, while apparent electrical resistivity values vary from 300-2000 ohm-meters. A 75 meter wide, east-west trending low resistivity zone extending across the center of the study area is juxtaposed against an extremely high resistivity zone which is present to the north. The results of seismic reflection and electrical resistivity data analysis are interpreted to suggest that several small and large scale extensional faults may exist throughout the sediments, possibly reaching depths of up to 30 meters.

An isopach map of preserved terrace thickness indicates that the faults lie within an east-west trending zone of maximum terrace thickness (35-40 meters thick), which corresponds to a topographic rise in land surface. A structure contour map of the bedrock surface reveals an area of lowest bedrock elevation beneath this zone, implying inverted topography. Results indicate that the evolution of the terrace might be related to ongoing karst processes within the bedrock.

Giles County, New River terraces, geophysics