PALEOSOLS AND PALEOCLIMATE EVOLUTION, DURHAM
SUB-BASIN, NORTH CAROLINA
COFFEY, Brian P., Department of Geological Sciences,
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0404
TEXTORIS, Daniel A., Department of Geology, University of
North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599
Paleosols are increasingly more useful in deriving information about
paleoclimates. While ancient soils are commonly used to interpret
paleoclimatic conditions for a given time, less research has been
conducted on changes in paleosol horizons in a basin over a time
interval. This approach has been taken for the Late Triassic (Carnian)
Durham sub-basin in central North Carolina.
Other research within the wet equatorial to dry subtropical
deposits of the Newark basins of eastern USA indicates a climatic
transition. For the Durham sub-basin, this could be a 5 degree shift
from 10 up to 15 degrees north latitude. Such changes have been
attributed to northwest movement of the North American Plate in
response to the break-up of Pangea. This tectonism is also the
accepted cause for the formation of the failed rift basins.
By comparing paleosol horizons, which formed in mudstones
of floodplain origin, across the sub-basin from west to east (oldest to
youngest), changes in paleoclimate are evident. Features commonly
found in these predominantly grayish-red to pale red mudstones are
structures resulting from bioturbation such as mottles and swirls, peds
due mainly to brecciation caused by shrinkage and swelling of clays,
and calcite (with less common hematite) nodules due to action
movement by groundwater and evaporation. Types of caliche, and
possibly clay mineralogy, serve as the primary climatic indicators.
Calcite crusts and nodules become increasingly more common and
complex to the east (youngest), implying drier conditions.
Easternmost paleosols are also associated with playa deposits of
seasonal sands and muds, with periods of limestone and chert
precipitation. The most common mature paleosols are calcisols and
vertisols. Western paleosols are older stratigraphically and resemble
argillisols which formed in a more humid paleoclimate.
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