Stratigraphic process-response model for submarine channels and related features from studies of Permian Brushy Canyon outcrops, West Texas
This paper presents a process-response model for submarine channel-lobe systems based on the integration of sedimentology, architectural element analysis, paleogeographic reconstructions, and stratigraphy to characterize the migration patterns of the channel-lobe transition zone (CLTZ). In the Permian Brushy Canyon basinal cycle, deposition is the product of the basinward then landward migration of the CLTZ across the depositional profile (zonal or facies tract shift). This is expressed in outcrop by the vertical association of sandstone lobes overlain by channel fills capped by sandstone lobes. Linking these sedimentary bodies to their facies associations provides the framework for relating variable degrees of flow confinement to small-scale composite erosional depressions (less than 150 m wide by 5 m deep). This model identifies (1) coeval geomorphological expressions of the depositional profile and (2) the stratigraphic evolution of depositional cycles at every profile position. This permits relating facies associations to lateral and longitudinal changes in flow conditions at the time of deposition. Stacking patterns, geometry of sedimentary bodies and facies associations reflect fluctuations in flow volume and efficiency. Architectural element analysis differentiates evolutionary phases of channel-lobe systems. The power of the model lies in its ability to compare architecture and evolution across several scales of sedimentary bodies. Recognizing the vertical and lateral association of sedimentary bodies, arranged in a hierarchical order, permits understanding how the geomorphological building blocks of this depositional system change through time. Channel-fill, channel-flank and lobe strata represent the building blocks that form composite features documented at four scales. These range from tens of meters to several kilometers wide, by meters to hundreds of meters thick. Areal distribution of sedimentary bodies at each scale responds to specific controls, i.e. flow volume and topography. For example, channels extending basinward of a canyon mouth form local depositional topography that produces lateral migration of channel-lobe systems through time. This strongly controls the frequency of channel avulsion and lateral deposition.