Pedogenic and lacustrine features of the Brushy Basin Member of the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation in western Colorado: Reassessing the paleoclimatic interpretations

Lawrence H. TANNER, Kenneth K. GALLI, Spencer G. LUCAS


Study of the pedogenic features of the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation in western Colorado, USA, shows a clear difference in the types of paleosols between the strata of the lower and upper Brushy Basin Member. Lower Brushy Basin paleosols are mostly calcareous Aridisols with Stage I through Stage III calcrete Bk horizons, abundant root traces, occasional vertic features, but only rarely with ochric epipedons. Upper Brushy Basin paleosols are mainly thicker and commonly display ochric epipedons and well-developed Bt and Bw horizons. We assign these paleosols to the order Inceptisol. Limestones occur in the Brushy Basin Member and include both uniformly micritic limestones and limestones with strongly brecciated textures. The former contain sparse body fossils and charophyte debris, while the latter are characterized by clotted-peloidal fabrics with circumgranular cracking and silica replacement. We interpret these limestones as the deposits of carbonate in small water bodies on a low-gradient flood plain, with the textures resulting from pedogenic reworking of the carbonate sediment. We find no evidence for the presence of extensive lacustrine or wetlands (Lake T’oo’dichi’) deposits in the study area. The paleoclimate suggested by all of these features is strongly seasonal, but subject to variations on orbital (precessional and higher) timescales causing intervals of semi-aridity during weaker monsoons, to alternate with sub-humid periods during stronger monsoons. The apparent long-term change in climate during Brushy Basin deposition potentially resulted from northward drift of North America.


Aridisol; Inceptisol; calcrete; palustrine; lacustrine; pedogenesis

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