Re: coal again! (2)

Jonathan Clarke (
Sat, 27 Mar 1999 17:16:29 +1100

Hi Bill

This is the second part of a response to a long email which you wrote. The
first (1) discussed your specific points on coal. This email discusses Steve
Austin's abstract which you kindly forwarded. Fortunately, it is a bit
shorter that the last!

Bill Payne wrote:

> >Also, could you remind me in which of last year's posts did you outline
> your model?
> You're very kind, Jonathan, but it's not my model. Steve Austin laid the
> foundation, I'm just Steve's bulldog. :-)

I am not sure that either Huxley (Darwin's bulldog) or Gish (Morris's
bulldog) are people I would chose as role models. That is your business,

> I had posted Steve's abstract Sept 25, 1997 to the ACG list. Here it is
> again:
> ***************
> >From Penn St Univ Grad School Dept of Geosciences. "Depositional
> Environment of the Kentucky No. 12 Coal Bed (Middle Pennsylvanian) of
> Western Kentucky, with Special Reference to the Origin of Coal
> Lithotypes" - A Thesis in Geology by Steven Arthur Austin. Submitted in
> Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of
> Philosophy, August, 1979.
> The KY No. 12 coal bed (upper Desmoinesian) is a high volatile B
> bituminous, high mineral, and high sulfur coal occurring within the
> Providence Limestone Member at the base of the Sturgis Formation in
> western KY. The coal bed was studied stratigraphically,
> petrographically, mineralogically, and palynologically in order to
> decipher the environment of deposition and the origin of coal
> lithotypes.
> In Hopkins, Muhlenberg, and part of Ohio Counties, the No. 12 coal
> contains 8 thin carbonaceous shale partings (6 of which extended over an
> area exceeding 1,500 sq km), 4 thin bony coal bands, and at lease 1
> widespread fusain band. Partings define chronostratigraphic horizons,
> divide the coal bed into benches, demonstrate the facies relationship of
> the coal with the marine roof strata, and indicate that the coal was
> deposited on a north-dipping surface in response to marine
> transgression. The thickest coal accumulated on the highest elevations.
> Partings are marine in origin because they contain marine fossils,
> connect to marine roof strata, have a high ratio of illite to kaolinite,
> and grade southward (upslope) into bony coal and fusain clast
> conglomerate. Vitrain, "pseudovitrinite," and clay are more abundant in
> the thinner, more marine-influenced coal to the north, whereas clarain,
> "normal vitrinite," and liptinite are more common in the thicker, less
> marine-influenced coal to the south. Some benches have distinctive
> composition which can be recognized over wide areas. A statistical test
> of maceral associations generally supports published concepts of the
> origin of macerals. Maceral analyses of thin lithotype bands indicate
> that vitran, clarain, bony coal, and carbonaceous shale form a
> compositional series which can be described by quadratic equations.
> Miospores of arborescent lycopods appear to be especially common in the
> more marine influenced coal.
> Although the coastal plain swamp environment provides a possible modern
> analog for the No. 12 coal bed, it fails to explain several important
> characteristics of the coal: (1) the mechanism for emplacement of thin
> and widespread marine shale partings, (2) the lack of rooting of
> lithotypes, (3) the abrupt succession of bright lithotypes and miospores
> of arborescent plants just above partings, and (4) the unusual
> intertonguing of coal with marine roof strata. These problems are best
> resolved if the coal was deposited below an extensive floating mat. An
> environment ideal for the production of a floating mat is indicated by
> the stratigraphic data. Carbonaceous shale partings, bony coal bands,
> and fusain clast conglomerate appear to have been deposited below the
> mat by short-lived density currents generated by turbulent water in
> marine areas marginal to the mat. Clarain, the most abundant lithotype,
> was produced in quiet, shallower water generally removed from the margin
> of the mat. Vitrain, which is common near intertonguing marine rocks,
> appears to have formed primarily at the margin of the mat where lycopods
> were dominant, and where currents and waves were stronger.
> ************

Thanks for this Bill. It is a most interesting read. Like all abstracts it
details conclusions, but gives little data, so I am interested in more
specifics. Also he does not outline his "floating mat" model, so I am none
the wiser. Can you tell me (and the rest of us) more?

However, knowing nothing about the rocks, there is nothing I can find
exception to. It is a pity he never published aspects of his thesis. This
makes it difficult to get hold of and critique constructively.

> If you're interested in learning more, Austin's ICR video "Mt. St. Helens
> - Explosive Evidence for Catastrophe" better illustrates the model.

Everything I seen by written Steve Austin on Mt. St Helen's as a model for
coal deposition (or anything else) is rubbish. I haven't see the video, but I
doubt if it is any better. I regret if this sounds harsh, but none of the
wood deposits in Spirit lake or the various river log jams bear any
resemblance to the coal deposits I have seen or read about. The closest
things I have seen to them are fossil wood grounds or log jams in Triassic
and Tertiary (Oligocene?) sediments of Tasmania. These are not coals. I
have read of fossil wood in volcaniclastic sediments in the Permo-Triassic of
the Sydney Basin in NSW, but these are quite different from the coals which
exist elsewhere in the same basin.

If this is the best Steve can offer in the way of a floating mat, I am
surprised he was awarded his thesis. However, I suspect his thesis model is
quite different to the ICR model, after all his thesis was submitted 14
months before the St Helens' eruption.

> God bless,
> Bill

Once again, you too