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Sedimentology of subaqueous volcaniclastic sediment gravity flows in the Neogene Santa Maria Basin, California

February 1, 1994

Subaqueous tuff deposits within the lower Miocene Lospe Formation of the Santa Maria Basin, California, are up to 20 m thick and were deposited by high density turbidity flows after large volumes of ash were supplied to the basin and remobilized. Tuff units in the Lospe Formation include a lower lithofacies assemblage of planar bedded tuff that grades upward into massive tuff, which in turn is overlain by an upper lithofacies assemblage of alternating thin bedded, coarse grained tuff beds and tuffaceous mudstone. The planar bedded tuff ranges from 0.3 to 3 m thick and contains 1-8 cm thick beds that exhibit inverse grading, and low angle and planar laminations. The overlying massive tuff ranges from 1 to 10 m thick and includes large intraclasts of pumiceous tuff and stringers of pumice grains aligned parallel to bedding. The upper lithofacies assemblage of thin bedded tuff ranges from 0.4 to 3 m thick; individual beds are 6-30 cm thick and display planar laminae and dewatering structures. Pumice is generally concentrated in the upper halves of beds in the thin bedded tuff interval.

The association of sedimentary structures combined with semi-quantitative analysis for dispersive and hydraulic equivalence of bubble-wall vitric shards and pumice grains reveals that particles in the planar bedded lithofacies are in dispersive, not settling, equivalence. This suggests deposition under dispersive pressures in a tractive flow. Grains in the overlying massive tuff are more closely in settling equivalence as opposed to dispersive equivalence, which suggests rapid deposition from a suspended sediment load. The set of lithofacies that comprises the lower lithofacies assemblage of each of the Lospe Formation tuff units is analogous to those of traction carpets and subsequent suspension sedimentation deposits often attributed to high density turbidity flows. Grain distributions in the upper thin bedded lithofacies do not reveal a clear relation for dispersive or settling equivalence. This information, together with the association of sedimentary features in the thin bedded lithofacies, including dewatering structures, suggests a combination of tractive and liquefied flows.

Absence of evidence for elevated emplacement temperatures (e.g. eutaxitic texture or shattered crystàls) suggests emplacement of the Lospe Formation tuff deposits in a cold state closely following pyroclastic eruptions. The tuff deposits are not only a result of primary volcanic processes which supplied the detritus, but also of processes which involved remobilization of unconsolidated ash as subaqueous sediment gravity flows. These deposits provide an opportunity to study the sedimentation processes that may occur during subaqueous volcaniclastic flows and demonstrate similarities with existing models for sediment gravity flow processes.

Publication Year 1994
Title Sedimentology of subaqueous volcaniclastic sediment gravity flows in the Neogene Santa Maria Basin, California
DOI 10.1111/j.1365-3091.1994.tb01391.x
Authors Ronald B. Cole, Richard G. Stanley
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Sedimentology
Index ID 70186315
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse