Science and Mathematics Faculty Publications

Characterization of Hard‐to‐differentiate Dune Stratification Types in the Permian Coconino Sandstone (Arizona, USA)

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Dune stratification types, which include grainfall, grainflow and ripple lamination, provide a record of the fine‐scale processes that deposited sediment on palaeo‐dune foresets. While these facies are relatively easy to distinguish in some cross‐bedded sandstones, for others – like the Permian Coconino Sandstone of northern and central Arizona – discrete stratification styles are hard to recognize at the bedding scale. Furthermore, few attempts have been made to classify fine‐scale processes in this sandstone, despite its renown as a classic aeolian dune deposit and Grand Canyon formation. To interpret depositional processes in the Coconino Sandstone, cross‐bed facies were characterized using a suite of sedimentary textures and structures. Bedding parameters were described at multiple scales via a combination of field and laboratory methods, including annotated outcrop photomosaics, strike and dip measurements, sandstone disaggregation and laser‐diffraction particle analysis, high‐resolution scans of thin sections, and scanning electron microscopy. Cross‐beds were observed to be laterally extensive along‐strike, with most dip angles ranging from the mid‐teens to mid‐twenties. While some cross‐bed sets are statistically coarser near their bases, others exhibit no significant vertical sorting trends. Both massive and laminated textures are visible in high‐resolution scans of thin sections, but laminae contacts are commonly indistinct, making normal and reverse grading difficult to define. Diagenetic features, such as stylolite seams and large pores, are also present in some samples and might indicate alteration of original textures like detrital clay laminae and carbonate minerals. Observed textures and sedimentary structures suggest that the cross‐beds may consist of grainflow and grainfall deposits, but these remain difficult to differentiate at outcrop and thin‐section scales. This characterization of fine‐scale processes will play a critical part in the development of depositional models for the Coconino Sandstone and elucidate interpretations for similar cross‐bedded formations.


Aeolian, Coconino Sandstone, dune stratification, grainfall, grainflow