Rapid development of gravelly high-density turbidity currents in marine Gilbert-type fan deltas, Loreto Basin, Baja California Sur, Mexico


Rebecca J. Dorsey Department of Geological Sciences, 1272 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1272, USA (E-mail: rdorsey@darkwing.uoregon.edu)


The Pliocene Loreto basin is an asymmetrical half graben located on the eastern margin of Baja California Sur, Mexico, which formed by rapid subsidence along the dextral-normal Loreto fault. The southern Loreto basin contains numerous, well exposed coarse-grained Gilbert-type fan deltas that were derived from the footwall of the Loreto fault. Detailed sedimentological study of individual foreset beds provides information about down-slope flow transformations of cohesionless sediment gravity flows in shallow water. Deposits of Gilbert-delta foresets consist of ungraded, normal-graded, inverse- to normal-graded, and bipartite conglomerate and sandstone. Lateral transitions in sorting, grading style and internal structure are commonly observed within individual beds, both across and down slope, suggesting heterogeneity within flows and a close relationship between high-density turbidity currents and gravel traction carpets. A conceptual model for flow transformation and deposition of high-density turbidity currents on Gilbert-delta foreset slopes is developed for Pliocene strata in the Loreto basin. In this model, ungraded cohesionless debris flows evolved rapidly down-slope into normal-graded gravelly turbidity currents. With continued down-slope transport, the gravel fraction collapses and becomes concentrated into a basal traction carpet undergoing laminar shear, and is over-ridden by a sandy turbulent suspension. The short distances (10–20 m) over which lateral transitions within single beds are observed indicate very rapid flow transformations (10–20 s) and rapid deposition of gravel traction carpets by frictional freezing on and near the base of the foreset slope.