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Keywords:

  • Glacio-isostasy;
  • interfluve sequence architecture;
  • quaternary coastal lithofacies and stratigraphy;
  • sea-level fluctuation;
  • sedimentary environments

Abstract

Lithofacies analysis is fundamental to unravelling the succession of depositional environments associated with sea-level fluctuations. These successions and their timing are often poorly understood. This report defines lithofacies encountered within the north-eastern North Carolina and south-eastern Virginia Quaternary section, interprets their depositional environments, presents a model for coastal depositional sequence development in a passive margin setting and uses this understanding to develop the stratigraphy and Quaternary evolutionary history of the region. Data were obtained from numerous drill cores and outcrops. Chronology was based on age estimates acquired using optically stimulated luminescence, amino acid racemization, Uranium series and radiocarbon dating techniques. Geomorphic patterns were identified and interpreted using light detection and ranging imagery. Since lithofacies occurrence, distribution and stratigraphic patterns are different on interfluves than in palaeo-valleys, this study focused on interfluves to obtain a record of highstand sea-level cycles with minimal alteration by fluvial processes during subsequent lowstands. Nine primary lithofacies and four diagenetic facies were identified in outcrops and cores. The uppermost depositional sequence on interfluves exhibits an upward succession from shelly marine lithofacies to tidal estuarine lithofacies and is bounded below by a marine ravinement surface and above by the modern land surface. Older depositional sequences in the subsurface are typically bounded above and below by marine ravinement surfaces. Portions of seven depositional sequences were recognized and interpreted to represent deposition from late middle Pleistocene to present. Erosional processes associated with each successive depositional sequence removed portions of older depositional sequences. The stratigraphic record of the most recent sea-level highstands (Marine Isotope Stage 5a and Marine Isotope Stage 3) is best preserved. Glacio-isostatic adjustment has influenced depositional patterns so that deposits associated with late Quaternary sea-level highstands (Marine Isotope Stages 5c, 5a and 3), which did not reach as high as present sea-level according to equatorial eustatic records, are uplifted and emergent within the study area.