Relationships between fluvial dune cross-set thickness, planview width, and trough geometry

Benjamin T. Cardenas, Kaitlyn Stacey, Zachary J. Baran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sedimentary structures provide critical information for the reconstruction of ancient environments of Earth and other planets. Fluvial dune cross sets, structures that record dune migration via the filling of leading troughs along ancient riverbeds, are particularly useful. Most quantitative methods for interpreting cross sets require thickness measurements, but the growth of planview imaging of sedimentary rocks on Earth and Mars has introduced a need for methods to interpret planview exposures of cross sets. Here, we measured 359 crossset widths exposed along ancient channel belts of the Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation exposed in Utah, USA, and compared these widths to published thicknesses (n = 350). We found that the mean cross-set width was 1.29 m, 9.3 times the mean thickness. The normalized distributions of widths and thicknesses were statistically similar and thus contained similar paleoenvironmental information. Numerical experiments representing a series of trough cut-and-fill structures show that cross-set reworking is equally important in setting width as thickness and that the observed cross-set widths could be explained by a gamma-distributed range of trough widths with a mean of 2.96 ± 0.25 m, ~2.3 times cross-set width. Given the similarity of dune-field geometries across depositional settings and planetary boundary conditions, we suggest this cross-set width-to-thickness relationship could be useful for interpreting other cross sets exposed in planview.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1167
Number of pages5
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology

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