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JotntXaL OF

SEI)I MF.N'I;AI,~Y P~.;ntol.oc,e, VOL. 44, NO. 4j P.

1174-1185

Fits. 1-7, Dt~cl.:~*RV.U1974


Copyright 1974, The Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists

P A L E O C U R R E N T A N A L Y S I S OF A L L U V I A L S E D I M E N T S :
A D I S C U S S I O N OF D I R E C T I O N A L V A R I A N C E A N D
VECTOR MAGNITUDEL 2

A N D R E W D. MIALL
Institute of Sedimentary and Petroleum Geology,
3303-33rd St. N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2L 2A7

ABSTRACT: A tabulation of recent work on current indicators in modern rivers shows that
directional variance increases with decreasing structure scale, in fairly close agreement
with the structure hierarchy concept of Allen (1966).
Fluvial currents are vectors, definable by direction and magnitude, but most paleocurrent
studies ignore magnitude. It is proposed that azimuth readings be weighted according to the
cube of current structure thickness, this being a volume measure corresponding to the
distance in all three dimensions over which a local flow vector might reasonably be assumed
to maintain the same direction. It is also a measure of the quantity of sediment moved by
the flow vector.
Examples are presented in which the proposed weighting factor is applied to data from
the fluvial Isachsen Formation (Cretaceous) and deltaic Eureka Sound Formation (Cretaceous-Tertiary) of Banks Island, Arctic Canada. It is shown that the use of the weighting
factor can differentiate flow patterns on the "basis of sedimentary structure size, leading to
interpretations of channel size, sinuosity, and other parameters of sedimentological importance. The weighting factor also provides an important check on calculations of vector
mean.

INTRODUCTION

Much work has been carried out in modern


rivers in recent years in an attempt to determine
the reliability of paleocurrent indicators. In
the present paper, an attempt is made to assemble this new data, with the aim of relating the
results to the sedimentary structure h i e r a r c h y
of Allen (1966) and to river sinuosity. T h e
methods for quantifying directional variance
are examined, and a new method is proposed
for weighting individual orientation measurements. Earlier studies of paleocurrent methods,
of broader scope, were provided by P e t t i j o h n
(1962), Allen (1966), and Selley (1968).
R E L A T I O N S H I P BETWEEN FLOW VECTORS
A N D CURRENT STRUCTURES

Many authors have contributed to the extensive literature on this subject. Of especial
value are papers by Allen (1966, 1967, 1968,
1973) and a S E P M publication edited by Middleton (1965). T h e subject is a very complex
1Manuscript received November 28, 1973; revised
April 2, 1974.
Published with the permission of the Director,
Geological Survey of Canada.

one, but from the point of view of paleocurrent


analysis, the facts remain essentially simple.
Most flow patterns have an internal symmetry
about their xy plane, where x is the direction
of primary flow and y is the normal to the
water surface. T h e m a j o r i t y of sedimentary
structures are symmetrical about the same xy
plane, although Allen (1968, Fig. 5.28) illustrates a few that are not. Thus, so long as the
geologist can see the entire structure, he can
always determine the direction of net flow.
The practical problem of incomplete exposure
is one that has long been realized, especially in
connection with trough crossbeds, in which the
trough infill, produced by the migration of large
scale ripple forms (Allen, 1968, p. 108-112)
commonly assumes a curved plan. Dott (1973)
provides a detailed discussion of this problem.
There is no final answer to the problem, other
than to take care in measurement, and to reject
questionable outcrop data. T h e problem of
preservation potential is also an important one.
A full consideration of its relevance to paleocur
rent analyses is beyond the scope of this paper.
Divergence between flow direction and crossbed dip certainly does occur. Smith (1972, Fig.
11 ) showed that flow over transverse bars may
diverge as much as 90 from the direction of

PALEOCU1RRENT ANALYSIS
foreset dip measured immediately below. In his
particular study location (Platte River, Nebraska) his data show that only 42.6% of dip
directions are within 10 of local current flow.
However, the divergence is symmetrical, for
his study also shows that the mean foreset dip
azimuth corresponds very closely to mean channel direction. The implications for students of
ancient rocks are clear.
Other authors (Wright, 1959; Selley, 1968,
p. 100) have suggested that a certain type of
large scale crossbedding presumed to be most
typical of point bar deposits in high sinuosity
streams (Moody-Stuart, 1966), is built up in a
direction perpendicular to the primary current
direction, owing to the outward migration of the
point liar on the concave side of a river
meander, This particular type of crossbedding
is typically large in scale and lithologically
heterogenous. It was classified as epsilon crossbedding by Allen (1963, p. 102). Selley (1968,
Fig. 2A) suggested that a study of epsilon crossbedding would show a unimodal current direction with a vector mean 90 from the river
trend. This would possibly be true only if a
single point bar was studied, and only if the
stream were of very high sinuosity. However,
most point bar deposits are more complex than
Selley's illustration would suggest. A study
of randomly chosen erossbeds may show a bimodal pattern with a vector mean close to that
of the river trend.
One of the uncertainties in making highly
sophisticated analyses of bed forms is the assumption that equilibrium exists between flow
conditions and the resulting sedimentary structures. Allen (1973) has summarized the sparse
data that is available on this snbject, and it
showed that a time lag of several days may
exist between a change in flow character and
the complete readjustment of the bed forms.
For paleocurrent analysis this is probably not
important. A preserved bed form is a valid
indicator of current direction, taking into account the type of divergence documented by
Smith (1972), and whether or not the current
changes in direction subsequently could not be
determined from a single structure, although it
may be detected by analysis of vertical variability throughout a sedimentary succession.
Such changes may have an effect on directional
variance but it is arguable whether they would
affect the vector mean.

OF A L L U V I A L

SEDIMENTARY

STRUCTURE

HIERARCHY

A fundamental concept in the understanding


of sedimentary structures and paleocurrent
systems is that of hierarchy. It was first de-

1175

fined by Allen (1966) whose thesis was that


flow- fields and the sedimentary structures
arising from them are of five orders of magnitude. The largest, or highest ranking, consists
of complete river systems, the next comprises
the individual river, and so on. The concept
is illustrated in Figure 1 and the ranks are
described in Table 1. Rank numbers in the iIlustration have been increased by two from
Allen (1966) for Allen did not assign a number
to the river system, and defined the river as
rank zero (Table 1). Apart from these minor
changes Figure 1 is derived directly from
Allen's work.
The currents forming the smaller scale structures are subsidiary to those forming the next
Iargest in size ; they may be considered as eddies
within the larger currents, at each scale of
observation. Structures of ranks 5 and 6 are
the ones most frequently available for study.
Current directions derived from them will approximate, statistically, those obtainable from
the larger features, for the flow vector fields
which give rise to the smaller structures are
dynamically related to the field of the overall
system. This has been demonstrated in numerous studies of modern rivers, e.g. Harms
et al. (1963), Coleman (1969), Williams and
Rust (1969), Bluck (1971), McDonald and
Banerjee (1971), Rust (1972), Smith (1971,
1972); but the spread of readings is liable to
be large, and this spread will itself vary, depending on the sinuosity of the river system
under study.
An additional complication was discussed by
Collinson (1971), who pointed out that under
conditions of fluctuating diseharge, sedimentary
structures will be formed under varying flow
regimes. At stages of low flow, small scale
structures such as ripple marks are formed by
flow fields whose directional properties are
likely to be strongly influenced by large bedforms developed at higher energy levels. Considerable directional variance is thus possible.
This is a situation where the hierarchy concept is inappropriate, for the currents forming
the ripples bear no genetic relationship to those
forming the earlier, larger structures (in contrast to the situation illustrated by Smith, 1972,
Figure 4, where rank 5 planar cross-sets and
rank 6 ripples form simultaneously from the
same flow field).
DIRECTIONAL

TiIE

SEDIMENTS

VARIANCE

STRUCTURE

IN

RELATION

TO

HIERARCHY

The studies of modern rivers quoted earlier


have had as one of their principal aims the
investigation of directional properties. How-

t176

el. D. M I A L L

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o-~

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"C

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cs

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----

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a,. ~

"~

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--

-a.~'~.~
0

~ ~ ~.y~

'~
'"'~

~ ~
"C--,

-~.~ ~

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"o
~ "-~~ =~

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~.~
0

0 0

~d

~,~

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~ ~~ - - " ~ - ~ i
~

~s

~-~

4..-~ ~

~ -.~'~

PALEOCURREiVT

g,

a
<

e,q

>,

I.
ai

gg 2:

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".~"ga

~g5
N

'M

o
tr;

,aD

AA:ALYS'IS

OF ALLU['IAL

SEDIMEArT,~

1177

ever, few attempts have been made to relate


these properties systematically to the sedimentary structure hierarchy. Allen (1967, p. 8386) considered the subject briefly, but very
little hard data was available at the time his
paper was written. This topic is considered in
the following discussion; Allen's figures are
quoted, together with recently published data
on modern rivers, and some well-controlled
studies of ancient rocks.
A measure of directional spread is given
by variance. Allen's (1967) figures for variance
were not derived from statistical m e a s u r e m e n t
but were estimates based on the assumptions
t h a t : (1) the maximum observed spread of
readings represents a variation of up to three
standard deviations on either side of the sample
mean, and (2) the sample population distribution is normal. Since a total spread of six
standard deviations represents 99.76% of the
area of a normal curve, these assumptions are
another way of saying that the observed spread
represents 99.76% of the observable variation.
Some of the authors quoted below give not
arithmetic variance but vector magnitude, based
on the circular frequency distribution calculations of Curray (1956). tn these cases, a
modification to arithmetic variance for comparative purposes has been carried out using
Curray's (1956, Fig. 3) conversion graph. T h e
data is summarized in Table 1 and Figure 2
using the appropriate rank numbers from Figure
1.
It is important to hear in mind that variance
from alI sources within the structure hierarchy
must be considered when assessing directional
variation. Variation within each rank must be
summed to that of the higher ranks as far
as is locally appropriate. In Table 1 and Figure
2 all the data for ranks 3 to 6 has been related
to rank 2, that of the single river. In some
of the published studies of modern rivers, this
has not been done, so that comparisons with
other rivers and other rock successions should
be carried out with care. Thus Coleman (1969,
Fig. 16) shows the directional variation in minor
channels (rank 4 of the present study) ex,ithin
the m a j o r channel reaches of the B r a h m a p u t r a
River. The maximum angular deviation ranges
locally from 15 degrees to 112 degrees. To
Coleman's figures must be added a variance of
290 to account for the 100 degree swing in the
m a j o r course of the river within his sampling
area. A similar summation must be carried out
on Coleman's crossbedding data (Coleman,
1969, 43--45) which was measured on straight
reaches of the river or a r o n n d bends using a
symmetrical sampling plan. Similar manipula-

A. D. M I A L L

1178

. ::::: :

:::!:[ ::::: ::::: :: ::

[.

RANK 2.

R A N K 4.

FIG. 1.--The sedimentary structure hierarchy, showing paleocurrent variability. Concept from Allen
(1966), although rank numbers used are different from Allen's, as discussed in the text, and as listed in
Table 1. Current rose diagrams illustrate directional variability present in the entire area shown for each
rank. This must be added to the variability shown by the larger scale structures to arrive at the total variability for the structures of each rank. The small squares show the areas chosen to illustrate the structures
of the next smaller scale. Structures illustrating rank 6 are bifurcating ripple crests.
tions have been carried out on some of the other
published figures. T h e resulting figures are
given in Table 1.
The data in Table 1 indicate that there can
be considerable variability in directional variance, even within the structures of a single r a n k
of the hierarchy. This may be directly attributed to different sinuosities of the rivers
under study. T h e amount of directional variance is thus a rough guide to sinuosity. O t h e r
sinuosity indicators in the form of vertical
stratigraphie sequence and sedimentary structure assemblage are discussed by M o o d y - S t u a r t
(1966), Allen (1970) and F r i e n d and MoodyStuart (1972, p. 39).
Figure 2 shows that variance increases
moving from high to low rank structures, the
increase being especially marked between ranks
2 and 3 and between 4 and 5. However, the
evidence available suggests that there is little
difference between the reliability of rank 5 and
rank 6 structures as paleocurrent indicators.
This was one of the main conclusions of B a r r e t t

(1970, p. 400--404) in a study of some Triassic


fluviatile rocks, and is also apparent from the
data provided by P i c a r d and H i g h (1973, Table
X V I ) . Several rank 6 structures, including
parting lineation, cuspate and sinuous ripples,
are rated by them as much more reliable than
avalanche-type cross-stratification, a rank 5
structure. It is not possible to include Pieard
and High's data in Table 1 as the figures provided relate only to within-channel variation.
Rust (1972, Table II, I I I ) found t h a t small
scale structures ( r a n k 6) appeared to h a v e a
lesser directional variance than did m i n o r channels ( r a n k 4) in his study of the Donjek River.
Rust reports, however, (personal communication, 1973) that owing to problems of accessibility his sampling of small scale structures was
not carried out over the entire sample area.
He feels that on this account use of his variance
information for comparison purposes may not
be strictly valid.
Even within the confines of a single rank
there is some evidence that certain structures

t)ALEOCURRENT

A A : A L Y S I 5 " OF A L L U U I A L

I0000

800C

6000

4000

2000

2
3
4
5
sedimentary structure rank

FIC. 2.--The range of directional variance shown

by sedimentary structures of different rank. Data


from Table 1.
are more reliable as paleocurrent indicators than
others. Thus, Agterberg, et al. (1967) and High
and Picard (1974) found that trough crossbeds
gave lower directional variance than did planar
crossheds (both of rank 5). Their interpretation of this result was that their planar crossbeds represented the slip-off faces of hars
oriented obliquely to the curren} direction,
whereas trough axes coincided more closely
with stream direction. An alternative explanation is that the two types of structure were
formed under different flow conditions. However, Meekel (1967) found that variance shown
by trough crossbeds was very close to that
shown by planar crossbeds.
The concept of sedimentary structure hierarchy would lead one to suspect that rank 6
structures should show greater directional variability than any others. Either the hierarchy
concept is insufficient to explain the variability
of directional information, or the data at present available is insufficient to provide a valid
test of the idea. The latter may well be the
case, but at the same time it should be pointed
out that there are many complications surrounding the formation and orientation of sedimentary structures, and in many cases there is
still dispute over their exact mode of origin
(Picard and High, 1973). Such factors as flow
regime, fluctuation of discharge (Collinson,
1971), bedform tag (Allen, 1973), variable
sinuosity, and so on, all contribute to directional

SEDIMENTS

1179

characteristics, and it may never be possible


to account for all these effects in unified sedimentary models. It is certainly beyond the
scope of the present paper (useful discussions
are provided by Banks and Collinson, 1974;
Smith, 1974).
The field sampling scale will have an effect
on the variance shown by paleocurrent readings
(Olson and Potter, 1954; Potter and Olson,
1954), and it is important to relate this variance
to the correct level of sedimentary structure
hierarchy. For example, Kelling (1969, p. 866)
suggested that between-outcrop variance may be
"determined by deviation in the alignment of
laterally (or vertically) adjacent sand bodies
within the major stream courses, and, by the
same token, variance at the between-sectors
level is presumably a function of the differing
orientation of adjacent streams or portions of
streams."
THE

PROBLEM

OF VECTOR WEIGHT

A fluvial current is a vector, definable by


direction and magnitude, but presently accepted
practices in processing directional data deal only
with direction. The usual method is to assign
equal weight (unity) to each azimuth reading
when calculating mean direction, yet if structures of more than one rank are used equal
weight is thereby assigned to lower rank
(smaller) structures, which are the least reliable
from the point of view of regional paleoslope
determinations.
What is the relative importance of azimuth
readings taken on the various types of structure ? The discussion to this point has provided
a qualitative answer to the problem, but few
workers have attempted to deal with the subject
on a quantitative basis. It must be appreciated
that the volume of a large scale planar crossbed set (50 cm thick, or more) may be several
hundred thousand times greater than that of a
small scale ripple (1 cm thick, on average).
This volume contrast is a direct measure of the
relative quantity of dispersed sediment moved by
the current which gave rise to the structures and
hence is an indication of the relative magnitude
of the current system itself. It is therefore recommended that structures of such markedly
different size (different rank) never be analyzed together for paleocurrent purposes. To
do so is to lose information by confusing the
effects of current flow fields of different magnitudes. Each structure type and each rank
has its own type of directional variance which
it may be important to analyze.
Several authors have dealt with the problem
of vector weight. Thus Allen (1967, p.

118()

A. I). M I A L L

78) proposed that azimuth measurements be


"weighted by some property of the rock structure that serves as an estimation of quantity of
sedinlent," and suggested using cross-set thickness. ]riondo (197.3) suggested giving "each
measurement a value equal to the volume o:f
sedimentary unit it represents." In the case
of several measurenlents being made on the
same unit, it was suggested by lriondo that the
volume be distributed proportionally between
each nleasurement.
_\llen's suggestion is not a complete answer
to the problem for thickness, being a one-dimensional measure, is not appropriate to define
fully sediment quantity, lriondo's suggestion is
also inappropriate, for two reasons. Firstly,
the volume of a sedinaentary structure, especially a large scale featnre such as a transverse bar or its component cross-sets, is almost
impossible to determine from the two-dimensional outcrops characteristic of ancient rocks.
Secondly, an azimuth measured at a given point
within a sedimentary structure will not necessarily be typical of the entire structure. F o r
example, the orientation of an avalanche face
at the margin of a bar may fluctuate laterally
(\Villiams, 1971, P1. IV C, D ) , giving rise to
variable azinmth directions, as illustrated by
Smith (1972, Fig. 7).
t)lson and Potter (1954, p. 43-45) proposed a
weighting process h a v i n g an entirely different
purpose. They were 1lot concerned with the
relative weight of the individual current vector
and the resultant sedimentary structnre, but with
the validity of statistical information calculated
from samples at different levels of their sampiing hierarchy. They calculated reliability estimators for use as weighting factors when combining data from more than oIae sample location.
\Vhen data is sparse it may be important to use
these estimators for combining scattered outcrop data, :is only in this maturer may reliable
local mean azinmth figures be calculated. Eut
the present author regards this approach as
insufficient, for it does not take into account
the problem discussed by Allen ( 1 % 7 ) and
lriondo (1973), namely the relative weight of
the individual vector. As noted above, the present author does not agree with the suggestions
offered by these two authors. A new method is
proposed below.
An azimuth reading is taken over a small exposed portion of an individual sedimentary
structure. It is generally valid for the full
thickness of the structure, and it is argued that
it is also valk[ in plan view parallel and perpendicular to the current direction for a distahoe equal to the structure thickness. T h e

latter is an indication of flow field size, and


may also be regarded as the distance in all three
dimensions over which the flow field may be
reasonably assumed to m a i n t a i n constant direction. In addition this figure, when considered
in three dimensions, is a measurement of the
volume of sediment displaced by the current,
within the region of assumed constant current
direction. The relative weight of the flow
vector may thus be assessed using this volume
measurement, and it is therefore proposed that
the cube of structure thickness be used to weight
the individual azimuth readings in vector mean
calculations.
The method can be readily applied to any
structures where the relationship of structure
to current is clear and unaml)iguous. Thus, it
could not be applied to tool markings, but may
be used for all types of crossbedding as well as
for ripple structures of large and small scale.
Some inaccuracy in the proposed method may
accrue from the loss of thickness resulting from
erosion prior to final burial of a sedimentary
structure. However, this is not thought to be
a serious problem.
TIlE

USE

OF A \ V E I G I t T I N G

FACTOR:

gOME EXAMPLES

Method
The most commonly used method of processing orientation data is that based on the
circular normal distribution as is described by
Curray (1956) and Krumbein and Graybill
(1965, p. 128-131).
Mean azimuth 0 is given by the following
formula,
tan 0 = 2~n sirt 0
Xn cos O'
where 0 represents the azimuth observations,
from 0 to 360 . The quantity n is defined by
Curray (1956, p. 119) as the "observation vector
magnitude or, in the case of grouped data of
unit vectors, it is the number of observations
in each group." Ii1 this paper ungrouped data
are used, and 11 is used as a weighting factor
to control for vector magnitude, in this case
the cube of cross-set thickness.
Curray's equations are used to calculate L,
the magnitude of the resultant vector and p, the
Rayleigh significance test.

5"oarce of data
The examples used herein are derived from
the author's study of the Isachsen Formation
(Neocomian to A p t i a n ) and the Eureka Sound

t ' d L E O C ~ ' R R E A ' T AA'A LY.~,I.5" OF _.ql.I.UUI.dL .q'.,VDIMEA:I'X

118t

Evers (1973), Jutard and Plauchut (1973), and


Miall (1974).

Results and discussion

L
.~',4"N

Table 2 lists the data calculated for 174


azimuth and thickness measurements made in
rank 5 structures at five field stations exposing

I)31

J~/
0I

Thomsen River

, miss,

KIm

'5

2'0

Fro. 3.--Location of field stations.


Formation (Maastrichtian to Eocene) of Banks
Island, Arctic Canada. Locations are shown in
Figure 3. The lsachsen Formation is fluvial
in origin; the most abundant sedimentary structure is planar crossbedding of rank 5. The
F.ureka Sound Formation is a deltaic deposit
containing numerous rank 5 and 6 sedimentary
structures.
The details of regional geology are not relevant to the present stndy, in which it is intended
to show only the effects of using a vector
magnitude weighting factor on calculations of
mean azimuth and vector strength. The interested reader may, however, refer to the work
of Thorsteinsson and Tozer (1962), Cassan and

the Isachsen Formation. Vector mean, 0, vector


magnitude L and p, the Rayleigh probability
test, have been calculated for each of the five
stations using both unweighted and weighted
data. The last two columns tabulate the differences that are brought about in mean and dispersion using the weighting method proposed
herein.
It will be noted that the effect on mean
azimuth is comparatively minor, but that the
effect on vector magnitude is variable. In two
of the five cases vector magnitude is diminished
when weighted data is used, in three it is increased. Current rose diagrams are provided
for the two field stations for which the two
calculation methods give rise to the strongest
differences, locations 29 (Fig. 4) and 30 (Fig.
5). In both cases the unweighted data have
a bimodal distribution, with a strong primary
mode and a weaker secondary mode. Vector
strength is comparatively high (81.5 to 83.3)
and corresponds to a variance of approximately
1,300. This figure cannot be compared directly
with the variance for other rank 5 measuremerits in Table 1, as the data relate to single
outcrops each exposing 28 m of section. There
is thus a fair probability that the larger scale
sources of variance, such as inter-channel variation, are not fully represented in the sample.
The process of weighting has markedly different effects on the data from the two stations.
That from loc. 29 (Fig. 4B) becomes polymodal,
whereas the Ioc. 30 data (Fig. 5B) becomes
much more strongly unimodal, and the secondary mode virtually disappears. It is not the
purpose of this paper to enter into detailed local

TABLE 2. Paleocurrent data for fluvial deposits (Isachsen Formation)


Loc.

No.
alpha

No.
epsilon

No.
theta

Total
obs.

26
24
31
29
30

2
0
2
1
13

23
18
20
29
57

1
0
3
0
3

28
18
25
30
73

~u

Lit

34
15
40
12
2

92.7
94.6
80.3
83.3
81.5

Pu
<10 -~
.Q10-'
<10-"
K10 -D
.(10 -~

~,~-

Lw

Pw

63
18
32
21
351

93.4
96.3

<10 -~
<10 -~
<10 "
<10 ~
~10 -~

77.5
71.6
89.9

0,,.-0a Lw-L~
A9
A3
C8
A9
Cll*

0.7
1.7
- 2.8

-11.7
8.4

Subscripts: u, w: u = unweighted, w ~ weighted; 0 = vector mean azinmth; L = v e c t o r strength;


p = probability of randomness; C = clockwise, A = anticlockwise. * = t-test shows difference b e t w e e n
means is significant at 95% confidence level.
Greek letters refer to sedimentary structure types of Allen (1963).

d.D.

1182

'

'

'

MIALL

' 5'0%

A . unweighted

A. unweighted data

data

n: 73

n - 30

L = 81"5
p : ~ I 0 -21

p=<lO-9

B. weighted

data

n='T3
t~ = 351
L = 89,9
p =<10 -25

FiG. 4. Current rose diagrams for rank 5 sedimentary structures fluvial deposits (Isachsen Fm.)
at Ioc. 29. These diagrams and those in Figures 5
to 7 are drawn with segment radius proportional to
square root of percent number of readings, so that
percent is directly proportional to segment area.
North is to the top, as in Figures 5 to 7.

FIG. 5.--Current rose diagrams for rank 5 sedimentary structures, fluvial deposits (Isachsen Fro.)
at loe. 30.

interpretations but a few preliminary conclusions will be drawn, in order to demonstrate


how the process of taking cross-set thickness
into account does bring certain facts into focus
that might not otherwise be noticed.
I11 the case of loe. 30 (Fig. 5) the secondary
mode in the 40 to 60 azimuth class is clearly
of minor importance. Re-examination of the
data shows that it is made up of lithologically
heterogenous planar cross-sets (epsilon type of
Allen, 1963) 6 to 15 cm in thickness. The
primary mode is represented by larger structures, including a few of epsilon type 100 to
150 cm in thickness. The larger structures probably represent the main channel whereas the
smaller cross-sets were developed by the occasional spasmodic influence of a smaller channel in the area. The beds exposed at loc. ,30 are
interpreted as the deposits of a braided river
of low sinuosity (Miall, 1974), within which
were located active and inactive channels of
several different sizes.
The foreset directions at loc. 29, by contrast,
are strongly polymodal (Fig. 4B). It is prob-

able that at least two channels were active in


the area bringing in sediment from two different directions. The major group of readings
between 0 and 60 in the unweighted data
(Fig. 4A) is split by the weighting process into
two modes, at 0 to 20 and 40 to 60 . The
original 20 to 40 mode is seen, from examination of the data, to be composed of the smaller
scale planar cross-sets, similar to those which
gave rise to the secondary mode at loc. 30.
It is possible that the larger structures, with
azimuths on either side of the 20 to 40 mode,
represent cross-sets formed at lateral bar margins. The other two modes, at 100-120 and
3200-340 are interpreted as the result of deposition within subsidiary channels. The modes
are derived from one and six readings, respectively.
The weighted data has a vector mean significantly different (using t-test statistics) from
that of the unweighted data in only one of the
five data sets Iisted in Table 2 (loc. 30). This
particular result was examined further by dividing the loc. 30 field data into two equal-

o
I

50%
1

I)HLE()CURRENT

,qXHLYSIS"

OF ALLUVIAL

1183

SEDIMENTS

TABLE 3.--Paleocurrent data for deltaic deposits (Eureka Sound Formation)

Loc,

Sed.

struct.

19
0
19
~
19
0, K
20
a, ~
20
O, Tr
20
K
20
~, ~, O, K, ~r
21
0
21
K
21
0, K
19, 20, 21 or, ~, 0, ~r
19, 20, 21
K
19, 20, 21 ~,e, 0, K,,r

Rank

5
6
5,6
5
5
6
5,6
5
6
5, 6
5
6
5,6

No.

}.

L.

P~

?~

L~

P~

10
10
20
3
8
9
20
15
5
20
36
24
60

327
336
331
338
273
195
267
325
319
323
315
317
316

87,9
91.4
89.4
95.6
96.4
41.5
48.8
94.7
98.3
95.5
85.9
48.4
70.9

<10 -~
<10-'
<10-"
0.06
<10 -*
0.21
<10 ~
<10 -s
<I0 -~
<10 s
<10 n
<10 ~
<10 -x3

324
341
324
345
269
006
317
330
319
330
323
342
323

96.8
96.8
96.8
99.9
98.0
71.7
79.4
97.6
98.1
97.6
86.3
94.1
86.3

<10-"
<10-'
<10 -*
0.04
<10 ~
<10 -2
<10 -~
<10 -
<10 2
<10"
<10 -n
<10 -~
<10 -a9

obs.

0,.--~ Lw-L ~ 323-0. 323-0~


C3
A5
C7
A7
C4
C21"
AS0*
A5
0
A7
A8
A25
A7

8.9
5.4
7.4
4.3
1.6
30.2
30.6
2.9
-0.2
2.1
0.4
45.7
15.4

C4
C13
C8
C15
A50
A128
A56
C2
A4
0
A8
A6
A7

C1
C18
C1
C22
A54
C43
A6
C7
A4
C7
0
C19
0

Symbols as in Table ,,
"~ greek letters in column 2 refer to sedimentary structure types of Allen (1963).
sized subsamples and calculating mean and
variance for each using weighted and unweighted data. The differences between the
subsamples were smaller than the differences
tabulated for loc. 30 in Table 2, and were not
significant at the 95% confidence level.
The fact that one of the five fhtvial data sets
gives a significantly different vector mean using
the weighting method, indicates that even in a
braided stream environment, where variance is
relatively low, the weighting method may provide an important check on the validity of vector
mean calculations. The weighting method may
be equally important in providing additional information relating to the overall distribution of
current directions, as the preceding paragraphs
have attempted to show.
Very similar results are shown by data from
deltaic deposits of the Eureka Sound Formation (Table 3). For each of the three localities,
rank 5 and 6 structures have been considered
separately, and then combined, and a similar
treatment has been carried out on the data from
all three locations grouped together. The last
two columns of Table 3 list the deviations from
the grand vector mean of 32,3 shown by mean
azimuths derived from various portions of the
data. The grand vector mean of 323 was calculated from all combined and weighted rank 5
data, and is regarded as the best estimate of
regional paleoslope orientation.
It will be observed that when using weighted
data, the addition of rank 6 structure information to that of rank 5 creates no change in mean
azimuth and vector strength. The weighting
process reduces rank 6 data to insignificant
proportions, and this emphasizes the point made
earlier that structures of more than one rank
of the sediment hierarchy should not he analyzed together.

Variance of the combined unweighted outcrop data compares closely to that of the data
derived from modern rivers which are quoted
in Table 1 (and which are also unweighted).
Thus rank 5 data have a variance of 1020 and
rank 6 data 4900. These values were derived
from the figures for vector strength, using the
graph supplied by Curray (1956). A stream of
moderately low sinuosity is indicated.

0'

'

'

'

' 55"0%

A, unweighted dora
n : 36
: 3t5
L=85"9
p = < I0-11

B, weighted data

n=36
1~= 3 2 3
L = 86.3
p - < 1 0 -It

Fie.
6.--Current rose diagrams for rank 5 sedimentary structures, deltaic deposits (Eureka Sound
Fro.) locs. 19, 20, 21.

1184

J. 1-. . l t R A K O f [ C H

A . H, C O O G A N

cant differences between vector means calculated using weighted and unweighted data
(using t-test statistic at 95% confidence level).
In both cases the weighted data gives a mean
much closer to the best estimate of 323 .

50%

A , unweighted

AND

data

n= 24
= 317
L = Zl8.4
19 = < ] 0 -2

B. weighted data
n = 24
= 342
L = 94.1
p =<10 -9

CONCLUDING REMARKS
A valuable exercise that the author would
like to propose, would be to gather weighted
paleocurrent data in a modern fluvial system,
where "true" current directions are known.
This would provide a useful test of some of the
ideas presented herein. A considerable amount
of testing in ancient deposits is also considered
to be necessary, for the examples given here are
regarded not so much as a proof of the
weighting method but as illustrations of its
potential.
This paper has been primarily concerned with
the smaller scale structures that are preserved
in alluvial rocks. The weighting method proposed could be applied to crossbedding of all
types, ripples, parting lineation, certain types
of sole structure, etc., but not to pebble imbrication, in which structure thickness, and thus
current size, are hard to assess.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Fie;. 7.--Current rose diagrams for rank 6 sedimentary structures, deltaic deposits (Eureka Sound
Fm.) locs. 19, 20, 31.
Figures 6 and 7 were constructed from the
rank 5 and 6 data, respectively, using combined
data from all three localities and as was seen
to be the case with the previous example the
process of weighting has a strong effect on
the modality of the sample. The secondary mode
in the rank 5 data between 260 and 280 is
made up primarily of large scale solitary and
grouped trough cross-sets (theta and pi crossstratification types of Allen, 1963) at loc. 20.
The reasons for the preferred directions of these
particular structures are not clear and need
further study.
Rank 6 data are all derived from climbing
ripples of kappa type, in the classification of
Allen (1963). T h e southerly directed mode
shown in Fig. 7 is reduced to an insignificant
feature by the process of weighting. The reason
is simply the smaller size of the ripples causing
this mode, suggesting that they were produced
by a low energy back-water eddy.
Two of the data sets in Table 3 show signifi-

The author thanks J. Win. Kerr and D. C.


P u s h for critically reading earlier versions of
this manuscript. G. K. Williams and H. P.
T r e t t i n also provided helpful comments. The
data calculations were carried out nsing the
author's ow-n programs and were run on the
CDC 3300 computer of Computer Data Processors Ltd., Calgary.
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