The role of shelf morphology on storm-bed variability and stratigraphic architecture, Lower Cretaceous, Svalbard
The dominance of isotropic hummocky cross‐stratification, recording deposition solely by oscillatory flows, in many ancient storm‐dominated shoreface–shelf successions is enigmatic. Based on conventional sedimentological investigations, this study shows that storm deposits in three different and stratigraphically separated siliciclastic sediment wedges within the Lower Cretaceous succession in Svalbard record various depositional processes and principally contrasting sequence stratigraphic architectures. The lower wedge is characterized by low, but comparatively steeper, depositional dips than the middle and upper wedges, and records a change from storm‐dominated offshore transition – lower shoreface to storm‐dominated prodelta – distal delta front deposits. The occurrence of anisotropic hummocky cross‐stratification sandstone beds, scour‐and‐fill features of possible hyperpycnal‐flow origin, and wave‐modified turbidites within this part of the wedge suggests that the proximity to a fluvio‐deltaic system influenced the observed storm‐bed variability. The mudstone‐dominated part of the lower wedge records offshore shelf deposition below storm‐wave base. In the middle wedge, scours, gutter casts and anisotropic hummocky cross‐stratified storm beds occur in inferred distal settings in association with bathymetric steps situated across the platform break of retrogradationally stacked parasequences. These steps gave rise to localized, steeper‐gradient depositional dips which promoted the generation of basinward‐directed flows that occasionally scoured into the underlying seafloor. Storm‐wave and tidal current interaction promoted the development and migration of large‐scale, compound bedforms and smaller‐scale hummocky bedforms preserved as anisotropic hummocky cross‐stratification. The upper wedge consists of thick, seaward‐stepping successions of isotropic hummocky cross‐stratification‐bearing sandstone beds attributed to progradation across a shallow, gently dipping ramp‐type shelf. The associated distal facies are characterized by abundant lenticular, wave ripple cross‐laminated sandstone, suggesting that the basin floor was predominantly positioned above, but near, storm‐wave base. Consequently, shelf morphology and physiography, and the nature of the feeder system (for example, proximity to deltaic systems) are inferred to exert some control on storm‐bed variability and the resulting stratigraphic architecture.