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A Visual Basic program to plot sediment grain-size data on ternary diagrams

January 1, 2008

Sedimentologic datasets are typically large and compiled into tables or databases, but pure numerical information can be difficult to understand and interpret. Thus, scientists commonly use graphical representations to reduce complexities, recognize trends and patterns in the data, and develop hypotheses. Of the graphical techniques, one of the most common methods used by sedimentologists is to plot the basic gravel, sand, silt, and clay percentages on equilateral triangular diagrams. This means of presenting data is simple and facilitates rapid classification of sediments and comparison of samples.

The original classification scheme developed by Shepard (1954) used a single ternary diagram with sand, silt, and clay in the corners and 10 categories to graphically show the relative proportions among these three grades within a sample. This scheme, however, did not allow for sediments with significant amounts of gravel. Therefore, Shepard's classification scheme was later modified by the addition of a second ternary diagram with two categories to account for gravel and gravelly sediment (Schlee, 1973). The system devised by Folk (1954, 1974)\ is also based on two triangular diagrams, but it has 21 categories and uses the term mud (defined as silt plus clay). Patterns within the triangles of both systems differ, as does the emphasis placed on gravel. For example, in the system described by Shepard, gravelly sediments have more than 10% gravel; in Folk's system, slightly gravelly sediments have as little as 0.01% gravel. Folk's classification scheme stresses gravel because its concentration is a function of the highest current velocity at the time of deposition as is the maximum grain size of the detritus that is available; Shepard's classification scheme emphasizes the ratios of sand, silt, and clay because they reflect sorting and reworking (Poppe et al., 2005).

The program described herein (SEDPLOT) generates verbal equivalents and ternary diagrams to characterize sediment grain-size distributions. It is written in Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 and provides a window to facilitate program execution. The inputs for the sediment fractions are percentages of gravel, sand, silt, and clay in the Wentworth (1922) grade scale, and the program permits the user to select output in either the Shepard (1954) classification scheme, modified as described above, or the Folk (1954, 1974) scheme. Users select options primarily with mouse-click events and through interactive dialogue boxes. This program is intended as a companion to other Visual Basic software we have developed to process sediment data (Poppe et al., 2003, 2004).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2008
Title A Visual Basic program to plot sediment grain-size data on ternary diagrams
DOI 10.1016/j.cageo.2007.03.019
Authors L. J. Poppe, A.H. Eliason
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Computers & Geosciences
Index ID 70032010
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center