Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 44–57 | Cite as

Stable isotope paleohydrology and chemostratigraphy of the Albian Wayan Formation from the wedge-top depozone, North American Western Interior Basin

  • Jeffrey B. Ross
  • Greg A. Ludvigson
  • Andreas Möller
  • Luis A. Gonzalez
  • J. D. Walker
Research Paper Special Topic: Cretaceous greenhouse palaeoclimate and sea-level changes


Understanding of the role of atmospheric moisture and heat transport in the climate system of the Cretaceous greenhouse world represents a major challenge in Earth system science. Stable isotopic paleohydrologic data from mid-Cretaceous paleosols in North America, from paleoequatorial to paleoArctic latitudes, have been used to constrain the oxygen isotope mass balance of the Albian hydrologic cycle. Over the range from 40°–50°N paleolatitude, sideritic paleosols predominate, indicating paleoenvironments with positive precipitation-evaporation (P-E) balances. Local exceptions occur on leeward side of the Sevier Orogen, where calcic paleosols in the wedge-top depozone record paleoenvironments with negative P-E balances in the orographic rain shadow. Stratigraphic sections in the Wayan Formation of Idaho (WF) were sampled from the wedge-top depozone. The units consist of stacked m-scale mudstone paleosols separated by m-scale sandstone-siltstone beds. Sections were sampled for organic carbon isotope profiles, and B-horizons from 6 well-developed paleosols were sampled for detrital zircons to determine maximum depositional ages. The first of these from the WF has produced a U-Pb concordia age of 101.0±1.1 Ma. This same WF section has produced a stratigraphic trend of upwardly decreasing δ 13C values ranging from–24‰ upwards to–27‰ VPDB, suggesting correlation to the late Albian C15 C-isotope segment. Pedogenic carbonates from the WF principally consist of micritic calcite, with carbon-oxygen isotope values that array along meteoric calcite lines (MCLs) with δ 18O values that range from–9.47‰ up to–8.39‰ VPDB. At approximately 42°N paleolatitude, these MCL values produce calculated paleoprecipitation values of–8.12‰ to–7.04‰ VSMOW, a range that is consistent with the estimates produced from other proxies at the same paleolatitudes across North America. These results indicate that despite the orographic rain shadow effect, the processes of meridional atmospheric moisture transport in this locale were similar to those in more humid mid-latitude paleoenvironments elsewhere in the continent.


Cretaceous Paleoclimate Wayan Formation Pedogenic carbonates Geochronology 


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I would like to thank my field assistant, Stephan Oborny, for his help trenching and collecting samples, Luke Miller for his assistance processing samples. I would also like to thank Ted Dyman for walking me through a section of the Blackleaf Formation, and L. J. Krumenaker and Dave Varricchio of Montana State University for assistance in locating suitable Wayan Formation outcrops. And thanks to: Adrienne Duarte, Tony Layzell, Josh Feldman, Ty Tenpenny, and Maggie Graham for the training they provided to help me process samples. I would like to personally thank my advisor, Greg Ludvigson for the support he provided when work was not proceeding as planned. Many thanks to my committee members, Dr. González, Dr. Möller, and Dr. Walker for the help they provided in data interpretations. We thank Stuart Robinson, Marina Suarez, and an anonymous peer reviewer for constructive suggestions that improved our presentation. This paper is a contribution of IGCP Project 609 “Climate-environmental deteriorations during greenhouse phases: Causes and consequences of short-term Cretaceous sea-level changes”.

Supplementary material

11430_2016_87_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (704 kb)
U-(Th)-Pb geochronological data for zircons from sample WN1.5, sorted from youngest to oldest 206Pb/238U of Cretaceous age grains


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey B. Ross
    • 1
  • Greg A. Ludvigson
    • 2
  • Andreas Möller
    • 1
  • Luis A. Gonzalez
    • 1
  • J. D. Walker
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeologyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Kansas Geological SurveyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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