Cyclostratigraphic Trends of δ13c in Upper Cambrian Strata, Great Basin, Usa: Implications for Astronomical Forcing

Wesley Donald Weichert


Composite geochemical studies of carbonate isotope values (δ13C) by other investigators have established that the Cambrian period is punctuated by a series of significant, globally correlated, positive and negative δ13C excursions. However, it remains unclear if low-amplitude secular variations in δ13C values exist superimposed on, or between large-scale perturbations in the Cambrian carbon cycle, especially in cyclic successions. Rocks of Steptoean-Sunwaptan (Paibian-Jiangshanian) stage, exposed in the Great Basin of Utah and Nevada, are excellent candidates for testing the hypothesis that sedimentary cycles record minor variations in Earth's orbit (Milankovitch cycles) through application of high-resolution chemostratigraphic analysis. High-resolution δ13C data was collected from intervals in two correlative sections in Utah and Nevada. In addition, gamma-ray profiles were measured from a total of eight sections across the Great Basin, providing a sequence stratigraphic framework. Here, secular variations in δ13C values up to +/- 1.33 ‰ and +/- 0.70 ‰ exist between correlative 5th order cycles in Utah and Nevada respectively. Carbonate cycles can be correlated laterally 115 km based on key marker beds in the dominantly subtidal succession. REDFIT time-series analyses of δ13C reveals peak frequencies that compare favorably with the precession, obliquity, and eccentricity bands estimated from long-term sedimentation rates. A 1:1, 2:1 and 5:1 bundling of cycles additionally suggests astronomical controls on sedimentation. This investigation of Late Cambrian cyclic carbonates provides evidence of putative Milankovitch-style cyclicity recorded in mid-to outer-shelf carbonate deposits of Laurentia.