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2013-14 Tour Information
Eastern North America:
• March 24-28, 2014
Professor and Chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Tulane University
Funded by the AAPG Foundation
Torbjörn Törnqvist is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Tulane University. He received his academic training at Utrecht University (PhD, 1993) and relocated to the US in 1999. His research interests reside at the interface of Quaternary science and sedimentary geology, with a particular focus on the evolution of fluvial, deltaic, and coastal environments. In addition, a significant portion of his recent work concerns paleoclimatology, notably sea-level change. His investigations are heavily field-oriented and currently take place mainly in the Mississippi Delta and the adjacent US Gulf Coast.
Abstract 1: Illuminating the Lower Mississippi River Sediment-Dispersal System over Orbital to Centennial Timescales
Numerous studies of sediment-dispersal systems have focused on the relative role of allogenic versus autogenic controls, and their stratigraphic imprint. Advancing our understanding of these vital issues depends heavily on geochronology. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating has progressed to the point that a plethora of research questions can now be tackled by means of the late Quaternary stratigraphic record. This presentation addresses two classic problems: (1) the response of a continental-scale fluvial system to sea-level and climate forcing over the past glacial-interglacial cycle, and (2) the nature of delta-plain aggradation over shorter (centennial to millennial) timescales. Downstream control (i.e., glacio-eustatic sea-level change) has triggered a remarkably rapid and widespread response of the Lower Mississippi River in terms of incision and aggradation, consistent with sequence-stratigraphic models. However, upstream (climate) controls modulate this fluvial response and stratigraphic architecture cannot be properly understood without fully taking this into account. In contrast, autogenic behavior dominates fluviodeltaic deposition over shorter timescales. Natural-levee and crevasse-splay deposits in the Mississippi Delta accumulate in a highly episodic fashion, challenging the classic model of gradual accretion. At any given location, distinct century-scale pulses with accretion rates on the order of centimeters per year alternate with prolonged periods of relative quiescence. This confirms observations from scaled experiments and highlights the complexity and incompleteness of the stratigraphic record, even over relatively short timescales.
Deltaic subsidence constitutes a classic geological problem, with implications for the accumulation of resource reservoirs as well as coastal degradation associated with accelerated relative sea-level rise. Therefore, disentangling the driving processes and quantifying the rates of subsidence has become a high priority, resulting in a flurry of research in and near the Mississippi Delta in the post-Katrina era. This presentation offers insights into the vigorous debate that has ensued, by means of a discussion of the relative importance of shallow versus deep crustal processes. This includes a review of isostatic adjustments associated both with local sediment loading and the aftermath of the last deglaciation, faulting, sediment compaction, and fluid extraction. It is shown that rapid progress on this complex issue is currently being made, with the potential for a new paradigm for deltaic subsidence in this region to emerge.