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The origin of carbonate mud

Trower, Elizabeth J. and Lamb, Michael P. and Fischer, Woodward W. (2019) The origin of carbonate mud. Geophysical Research Letters, 46 (5). pp. 2696-2703. ISSN 0094-8276.

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Carbonate mudstones are key geochemical archives for past seawater chemistry, yet the origin of carbonate mud remains a subject of continued debate and uncertainty. Prevailing hypotheses have settled on two mechanisms: (1) direct precipitation in the water column and (2) postmortem dispersal of mud‐sized algal skeletal components. However, both mechanisms conflict with geochemical observations in modern systems and are problematic in deep time. We tested the hypothesis that abrasion of carbonate sand during sediment transport might produce carbonate mud using laboratory experiments and a sediment transport model. We documented experimental mud production rates up to two orders f magnitude faster than rates estimated for other mechanisms. Combined with model calculations, these results illustrated that transport and abrasion of carbonate sand is a major source of carbonate mud.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription code
Trower, Elizabeth J.0000-0001-9898-5589
Lamb, Michael P.0000-0002-5701-0504
Fischer, Woodward W.0000-0002-8836-3054
Additional Information:© 2019 American Geophysical Union. Received 10 DEC 2018; Accepted 12 FEB 2019; Accepted article online 15 FEB 2019; Published online 11 MAR 2019. Lydia Kivrak assisted with abrasion mill experiments as part of a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the California Institute of Technology. We thank Brian Fuller and Tom Ulizio for assistance with abrasion mills, and Alex Simms and Laura Reynolds for assistance with mud particle size analysis. We thank Charlie Kerans and an anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments. This project was supported by an American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund Grant 56757‐ND8 (to W. W. F.). E. J. T. was supported by an Agouron Geobiology Postdoctoral Fellowship. Experiment parameters and results are provided in the supporting information. Matlab code for the abrasion mud production model (including code to generate Figures 1 and 3) and advection length scale calculations (v.1.0.0) is archived (
Funding AgencyGrant Number
American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund56757-ND8
Agouron InstituteUNSPECIFIED
Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:carbonate mud; whitings; abrasion; sediment transport; carbon cycle
Issue or Number:5
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190215-160650592
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Trower, E. J., Lamb, M. P., & Fischer, W. W. ( 2019). The Origin of Carbonate Mud. Geophysical Research Letters, 46, 2696–2703.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:92962
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:19 Feb 2019 22:42
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 21:32

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