KGS Cyclic Sedimentation

Symposium on cyclic sedimentation

Edited by D.F. Merriam

small image of the cover of vol. 1; gold color with text of title, etc.

Originally published in Dec. 1964 as Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin 169, 636 pages (2 vols.).
Varve Calibration of Stratification
by Roger Y. Anderson, pp. 1-20 in original volume.
Trace Elements and Cyclic Deposition
by Ernest E. Angino, pp. 21-30 in original volume.
Cyclothems and Cyclic Depositional Mechanisms in Alluvial Plain Sedimentation
by James R. Beerbower, pp. 31-42 in original volume.
Patterns of Sedimentation in Pennsylvanian and Permian Strata of Part of the Eastern Great Basin
by H. J. Bissell, pp. 43-56 in original volume.
Cyclicity in Oklahoma Paleozoic Rocks
by Carl C. Branson, pp. 57-62 in original volume.
Nature and Variability in Pennsylvanian Sedimentary Cycles of Colorado
by John Chronic, pp. 63-68 in original volume.
Superimposed Rhythmic Stratigraphic Patterns in Mobile Belts
by R. H. Dott, Jr., pp. 69-85 in original volume.
Depth of Late Paleozoic Sea in Kansas and Its Megacyclic Sedimentation
by Maxim K. Elias, pp. 87-106 in original volume.
The Lofer Cyclothems of the Alpine Triassic
by Alfred G. Fischer, pp. 107-149 in original volume.
Sedimentary Patterns in Eocene Cyclic Deposits, Northern Gulf Coast Region
by W. L. Fisher, pp. 151-170 in original volume.
Transitional Devonian to Mississippian Environmental Changes in Western Montana
by R. C. Gutschick, pp. 171-181 in original volume.
Rhythmic Laminations Within Some Seemingly Homogeneous Sandstones of Kansas and Oklahoma
by W. K. Hamblin, pp. 183-189 in original volume.
Cyclicity of Textures in Evaporite Rocks of the Lucas Formation
by Warren D. Haney and Louis I. Briggs, pp. 191-197 in original volume.
Significance of Marine Banks in Southeastern Kansas in Interpreting Cyclic Pennsylvanian Sediments
by John W. Harbaugh, pp. 199-203 in original volume.
Cyclic Sedimentation in the Colorado Group of West-Central Kansas
by Donald E. Hattin, pp. 205-217 in original volume.
Beattie Limestone Facies (Lower Permian) of the Northern Midcontinent
by John Imbrie, Léo F. Laporte, and Daniel F. Merriam, pp. 219-238 in original volume.
The Cyclothem as a Response to Sedimentary Environment and Tectonism
by W.C. Krumbein, pp. 239-247 in original volume.
Phases and Facies in the Interpretation of Cyclic Deposits
by Léo F. Laporte and John Imbrie, pp. 249-263 in original volume.
Repetitive Bedding in Triassic Sediments in Clark County, Nevada
by Allan R. Larson and N. Gary Lane, pp. 265-274 in original volume.
Water Depth and Midcontinent Cyclothems
by Alistair W. McCrone, pp. 275-281 in original volume.
Permian and Triassic Cycles Involving Chemical Sediments, Northern Arizona
by Edwin D. McKee, pp. 283-286 in original volume.
Paleoecological Aspects of Kansas Pennsylvanian and Permian Cyclothems
by Raymond C. Moore, pp. 287-380 in original volume.
Pre-Cincinnatian Paleozoic Cyclic Sediments in the Upper Mississippi Valley: a Discussion
by Meredith Eggers Ostrom, pp. 381-398 in original volume.
Finding the Ideal Cyclothem
by William C. Pearn, pp. 399-413 in original volume.
Fourier Series Characterization of Cyclic Sediments for Stratigraphic Correlation
by Floyd W. Preston and James H. Henderson, pp. 415-425 in original volume.
Transgressive-Regressive Cycle in Croixan Sediments (Upper Cambrian), Wisconsin
by Gilbert O. Raasch and Louis Unfer, Jr., pp. 427-439 in original volume.
Stratigraphic Sequences in the Pennsylvanian of Nebraska and Their Relationships to Cyclic Sedimentation
by E. C. Reed and R. R. Burchett, pp. 441-447 in original volume.
Tectonic Cycles of the North American Craton
by L. L. Sloss, pp. 449-459 in original volume.
Rhythmic-bedded Eugeosynclinal Deposits of the Tyee Formation, Oregon Coast Range
by Parke D. Snavely, Jr., Holly C. Wagner, and Norman S. MacLeod, pp. 461-480 in original volume.
Periodicity in the Wellington Formation of Kansas and Oklahoma
by Paul Tasch, pp. 481-495 in original volume.
Cyclic Lacustrine Sedimentation, Upper Triassic Lockatong Formation, Central New Jersey and Adjacent Pennsylvania
by Franklyn B. Van Houten, pp. 497-531 in original volume.
Depositional Topography in Relation to Cyclic Sedimentation
by D. C. Van Siclin, pp. 533-539 in original volume.
Origin of Repeated Fossiliferous Concretion Layers in the Fox Hills Formation
by Karl M. Waage, pp. 541-563 in original volume.
Pennsylvanian Megacyclothems of Wilson County, Kansas, and Speculations Concerning Their Depositional Environments
by Holly C. Wagner, pp. 565-591 in original volume.
Local and Regional Factors in Pennsylvanian Cyclic Sedimentation
by Harold R. Wanless, pp. 593-605 in original volume.
Development of the Concept and Interpretation of Cyclic Sedimentation
by J. Marvin Weller, pp. 607-621 in original volume.
Baselevel Transit Cycle
by Harry E. Wheeler, pp. 623-630 in original volume.
Cycles and Psychology
by Edward J. Zeller, pp. 631-636 in original volume.

Editor's Remarks

The idea for the "Symposium on Cyclic Sedimentation" was born many years ago, but the final plans were not formulated until November 1961 at a meeting in Cincinnati attended by seven of the authors. At that time, July 1963 was set for submission of papers but later it was necessary to extend the deadline to January 1964. Many of the authors found that they could not express their ideas in a limited number of pages and so that limit (within reason) was dropped. Because both these restrictions were lifted, additional time was necessary to process the contributions. The extra time was worth the delay. The Symposium will record, in years to come, mid-20th Century thoughts on cyclic sedimentation by North American authors. It is a major contribution on the subject.

Just since formulation of plans for the Symposium, many exciting things have happened in science--men "walking" in space, rocket probes into the solar system, routine use of second-generation computers, lasers and all their ramifications, and all sorts of specialized electronic equipment have come into use. In the subject of cyclic sedimentation, likewise, progress continued--symposia were held, papers were published, a book on the subject is being prepared, and simulation of cyclic deposits is being explored using high-speed, electronic computers. No doubt, interest in the subject is being generated and because of this, much will be learned about this most interesting and important natural phenomenon.

No more fascinating field for research and speculation exists within the entire domain of stratigraphy (Weller, 1956).

In addition to extending the deadline and allowing extra length to papers, processing of the manuscripts was complicated by editorial and printing problems. Not the least of these was the absence of the editor for a year away to England to study "Old World" cyclothems. In my absence, the lackluster work of proofreading, carrying on correspondence, manuscript checking, etc., was carried on admirably by Sally Liggett Brown, Nan Carnahan Cocke, and Gary F. Stewart. I am indebted to them for their interest and unselfish and enthusiastic help in making this contribution better. Other Kansas Geological Survey personnel also graciously helped in many ways.

Manuscripts insofar as possible were styled in Kansas Survey form. Attempts were made, at least, to make each manuscript consistent. It is hoped, however, that the high caliber of the technical content of the articles will completely overshadow any editorial inconsistencies and inadequacies.

Here, then, is hopefully a useful contribution to an important aspect of geology.

Daniel F. Merriam
Leicester, England
June 7, 1965


It is appropriate that the State Geological Survey of Kansas should celebrate its Centennial Year with a comprehensive symposium on cyclical sedimentation. Rocks of Pennsylvanian and Permian age in Kansas have provided some of the world's best examples of cyclical sediments. The contributions of the 45 authors contained in this symposium bring up to date the state of knowledge on cyclical sediments and processes in the United States. Far from solving all the problems presented by study of the rocks, the symposium authors point the way with new approaches and techniques and evaluation of old ideas to the need for continued research.

Frank C. Foley,
State Geological Survey of Kansas.


During recent years, the Kansas Geological Survey has directed its efforts toward two important goals. The first is concerned with the assemblage of information for synoptic publication on a systemic basis; the second is concerned with reinterpretation of the sedimentary environments. This Symposium on Cyclic Sedimentation is therefore consistent with the goals of the Kansas Geological Survey and further, is a fitting vehicle to celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of the Kansas Geological Survey.

Cyclical successions of sedimentary rocks have, for several decades, aroused the interest of geologists throughout the world and have been the subject of description and conjecture in numerous publications. These cyclical successions are perhaps nowhere better exposed than in Kansas where Pennsylvanian and Permian rocks are judged to be cyclical successions in large part. Some papers in this symposium will contribute significantly to understanding of these rocks and thus contribute to our goal of synoptic publication on a systemic basis.

Other papers support our goal of reinterpretation of sedimentary environments by concern with reduction of large masses of numerical data, the design of well-conceived experiments, and mathematical analysis of physical and chemical characteristics of these cyclical successions rather than concern with pure description.

Since the very beginnings of the science of geology, geologists have generated models to explain observable phenomena. Often, the model was based upon an experience factor, and one could look for and recognize a pattern in information that could be related to previously encountered models. However, the generation of a model is not always simple because problems are rarely simple, and one may be faced with the evaluation of many interacting parameters. A cyclothem is a model that attempts to explain the orderly succession of cyclical sedimentary deposits. The model involves a sequence of environments characteristic of marine transgression and regression characterized by minor changes in the elevation of land surface or sea level. However, this simple model has rarely been adequate to explain the complexity of most cyclical successions and further, the model has not been seriously tested.

Our notions about the tectonic and stratigraphic boundary conditions of sedimentary environments, for example, have long been controlled by models that may have outlived their usefulness and only by imaginative and systematic studies can we look to new models. Radiographic studies have shown that so-called homogeneous beds are rarely homogeneous and, in fact, exhibit all of the complexity of their more obvious associates. Systematic studies of cyclical successions should likewise throw new light on sedimentary environments. The microstructures of these rocks have assumed increasing importance in reinterpretation of these environments. In addition, new and powerful tools should aid in this reinterpretation. For example, a group working in the Kansas Geological Survey is using the computer along with two-dimensional Fourier analysis in order to examine the frequency spectrum of rock parameters, separate noise from the frequency spectrum, and develop numerical descriptors.

It has been tacitly assumed that most cyclical deposits are approximately synchronous in time. It may be that this aspect of the model is inaccurate and a model might be derived that would show synchroneity of different lithological units within the same cyclical succession. If this assumption is valid, then evidence should be found through close examination of sandstone units and in very detailed studies of microstructures within the shale units. It has been assumed that most even-bedded shales represent deposition on an essentially horizontal surface. These laminations may result from unloading, and shale units may exhibit all of the complex cross-bedding and other structures of other stratigraphic units.

This symposium is therefore especially significant because it serves to demonstrate interest in testing the cyclothem model and renewed interest in the whole problem of periodicity in earth history. The contributors to this symposium likewise are the catalysts for re-examination and reinterpretation of sedimentary environments.

William W. Hambleton,
Associate Director,
State Geological Survey of Kansas.

Kansas Geological Survey
Comments to
Web version updated Sept. 29, 2004. Original publication date Dec. 1964.