Paleocurrent Research Projects

"Accumulation of Global Paleocurrent Data"

Investigator: Dr. Art Chadwick

Paleocurrents have provided important information concerning the past history of sediment dispersal across the North American Craton. We have accumulated paleocurrent data from the North American Craton, and globally, with special emphasis in South America and England. This work has been productive. We now have an exceedingly detailed knowledge of the current flow in North America and a somewhat less detailed perspective for South America. These data continue to support the existence of one major craton in the Paleozoic. We are continuing our efforts to fill the gaps in our knowledge, allowing us to continue constructing and testing a global flood model on the basis of this data.


The term paleocurrent refers to any vectorial property of a depositing current that can be deduced from physical features preserved within sedimentary rock. These indicators can be things as obvious as cross bedding and ripple marks or such subtle structures as parting lineations and grain alignment. When the paleocurrent indicators derived from a sedimentary rock mass indicate a prevalent direction of flow, this information can be used to draw inferences regarding the potential source areas for the sediment and to attempt to reconstruct the geometry of the presumed basin in which the sediment was accumulating.

The value of paleocurrent indicators for this kind of inferential reconstruction has long been recognized, but little appreciated until recent decades. Much of the credit for this recent interest goes to Potter and Pettijohn, who made the tools of paleocurrent analysis widely available, and formalized the study of paleocurrents. The title of their book, "Paleocurrents and Basin Analysis" underscores the authors' aspirations that paleocurrents would prove useful in delimiting basinal geometries. In a section entitled "Beyond Basin Analysis", Potter and Pettijohn present evidence for extrabasinal trends, evidence that appears to directly contradict the concept of isolated regional sedimentary basins. This section is based largely on a paper by Potter and Pryor, demonstrating a continuous southwesterly trend in sedimentation throughout much of the Phanerozoic for a significant portion of the eastern half of North America. In concluding this section, the authors suggest that compilation of data for large areas over long time spans will "...disclose patterns of sediment transport which are closely related to the evolution and growth of the continent." This significant challenge can hardly be overlooked by individuals who would benefit from being able to reconstruct the processes involved in sediment accumulation on a global scale, be they evolutionary paleogeographers or diluvialists.

The results of our studies thus far have allowed us to address the continent wide picture. Our data suggest that Potter and Pryor were correct in recognizing the southwesterly trend in the Eastern North America. This trend however is even more pronounced in the western portion of the continent. The continuation of a trend over a distance of three thousand miles for the entire Paleozoic is more than just remarkable. It presents a severe challenge to the entire basinal concept of sedimentation. Furthermore, this trend suggests sedimentation must have been under the control of global processes on a scale not seen on cratons in the present, anywhere. This opens the possibility for serious consideration of a catastrophic process such as the Biblical flood to explain the scale and persistence of the phenomenon. The information available now permits us to begin to ask questions and propose models that can be tested against the constraints the paleocurrent data poses.

This data can be used, for example to test models of oceanic circulation in a boundless ocean, being developed at Los Alamos by Dr. John Baumgartner. Any model he proposes to explain circulation and deposition during the flood must explain the data in the paleocurrent database.

The pressing need at present is to obtain data from other continents that can demonstrate the distribution of paleocurrents in these areas. Is the condition in North America a fluke or is it representative of a global phenomenon, supportive of the Biblical concept of a global catastrophic flood. What else can we learn from the accumulation of additional data from other areas of the world? Preliminary studies along the Mediterranean coast in Europe indicate that much of the Tertiary sediment along the seaboard was derived from the Mediterranean! This kind of information will be invaluable in constructing and testing a diluvial model. Current and Proposed Research Work completed to date includes the development of a computer program that permits interactive display of paleocurrent data on a global scale, the development of a database of a large share of the total paleocurrent data covering the Phanerozoic and Precambrian in North America, and the first formal presentation of this work in the academic arena. Projects currently underway include the following. 1. A careful revision of the entire database is underway, with all references and data being checked for accuracy and duplication. Because of the labor intensive nature of the data procurement, numerous individuals have been involved in this process over a period of twenty years. Criteria have changed and new information has been added. As the data approaches the point of formal publication, this scrutiny and standardization is essential. 2. The software is being ported to IBM VGA compatibility. Because of the intense interest in this work, both among Creationists and others who wish to use it to test other hypotheses, the current version of the software, written to the TIGA standard, must be ported to a more general form that is not board-specific. This conversion has occupied my time during the better part of this semester. 3. Some corners of the North American continent need to be mopped up. This is not just a question of when is enough, "enough", because the areas not yet covered include Alaska, and the Dakotas, both crucial areas for continent wide considerations. This winter Dr. Duane Ford was traversing from Michigan to Alaska, across the Dakotas, and he has received information on collecting the necessary data from those areas and has agreed to do that. Also for obscure reasons, Texas and Louisiana have largely been neglected. Because of the emerging differences in trends in the southern regions of the continent, these areas have achieved urgent status. The proposed research covered by this grant application will include the funding of some of the on-going activities, as well as the extension of this work to other areas of the globe. Most of this external work will be done by recruiting volunteers who are already familiar with the languages and the turf. I am proposing to recruit individuals with backgrounds and interests in geology, some of whom I have already contacted. The funds would be used to offset travel and copying expenses of these individuals. They will be instructed as to the nature of the study and the types of data required.

Testing Models of Global Catastrophes using Paleocurrent Data


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