Re: coal again! (2)

Bill Payne (
Sun, 28 Mar 1999 01:06:02 -0600

On Sat, 27 Mar 1999 17:16:29 +1100 Jonathan Clarke
<> writes:

>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
>specifics. Also he does not outline his "floating mat" model, so I am
>the wiser. Can you tell me (and the rest of us) more?

Sephen Moshier posted this 22 Sept 97 to the ACG, which may help, esp the
references at the end:


I want to comment on Steve Austin's coal model (a follow up to Kurt's
recent comments).

Austin (Austin, 1979) reached the conclusion that the Paradise coal (WKY
#12) was formed from floating peat mats. The prevailing view has been
the coal represents a coastal plain mire. Austin's observations
(a) shaly partings indicating marine flooding of the peat forming
environment, (b) abrupt succesions of coal components above the partings,
(c) lack of rooting of trees, and (d) intertonguing of marine roof

I have never studied a coal seam in the field and I am more intersted in
the overall facies patterns in cyclothems. My impression is that it is
difficult to reproduce field studies of coal seams because the geologist
studying them as the company is ripping them out of the earth! Thus, we
may never be able to recheck Austin's work. Nevertheless, everyone I
in the coal community who is familiar with Austin's coal work trusts his
observations (In fact, I feel that is field work at Mt. St. Helens is
first class, as well). They say that some of his claims for allochthnony
are equivocal, in that those features might also be explained by an
autochthonous model. Outside of Austin's study area there are plently of
indications of in situ swamp development, such as (a) rooting (Utgaard,
1979, Greb and others, 1992), (b) channelization by sandstones (Anvil
ss) with point bar characteristics forming a regional dendritic drainage
pattern (Hopkins, 1958), and paleosols beneath, or laterally equivalent
the coal (de Wet and others, GSA Bull., in press). Gastaldo (1984)
pretty compeling arguments against coals by floating mats in light of
field studies, botanical considerations, coal petrology, and the
evironmental and hydrodynamic instability of such mats.

Even if floating mats explain some of the coals in the cyclothems (as we
have established in other posts to acg-l) the whole sequence of coal
measures hardly supports catastrophic deposition. Not with paleosols,
river erosional patterns, and alternating marine and non-marine deposits,
etc. (I know that is not a good sentence).

Concerning Kurt's comments on the laboratory creation of instant
Even if coals can form in years or hundreds of years, YEC's lack a model
for the entire Carboniferous coal-bearing sequence (with all 50 plus
cyclothems) that is more reasonable than the actualistic model. Since
these were to be deposited during the flood, there can be no appeal to
"appearance of age." And, making coals in the lab does not prove that a
seam formed quickly. We can grow quartz crystals in a lab in a matter of
days or weeks, but that does not mean that the gazillion quartz crystals
the Sierra Nevada batholith all cooled at the same time! (If they did, I
do not think that the rock would look like a granite.)


Austin, S. A., 1979, Depositional environment of the Kentucky No. 12 coal
bed (Middle Pennsylvanian) of western KY, with special reference to the
origin of coal lithotypes: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D.
Dissertation, 390 p.

de Wet, C. B., Moshier, S. O., Hower, J. C. de Wet, A. P., Brennan, S.
Helfrich, C. T., and Raymond, A. L., in press. Disrupted coal and
carbonate facies within two Pennsylvanian cyclothems, southern Illinois
Basin, USA, GSA Bull.

Gastaldo, R. A., 1984, A case against pelagochthony: the untenability of
Carboniferous arborescent Lycopod-dominated floating mats. The
Evolution-Creation Controversy, Perspectives on Religion, Philosophy,
Science and Education, The Paleontological Society Special Publication
1, K. R. Walker, ed., p. 97-116.

Greb, S. F., D.A. Williams, and A. D. Williamson, 1992, Geology and
Stratigraphy of the Western Kentucky Coal Field, KY Geol. Survey Bull. 2,
Series XI, 77p.

Hopkins, M. E., 1958, Geology and petrology of the Anvil Rock Sandstone
southern Illinois. Illinois State Geological Survey Circular 256, 49p.

Utgaard, J., 1979, Paleoecology and depositional history of rock strata
associated with the Herrin (No. 6) Coal Member, Delta Mine, southern
Illinois, in Palmer, J. E., and Duthcher, R.R., eds., Depositional and
structural history of the Pennsylvanian System of the Illinois Basin,
2: Invited papers: Field Trip No. 9, Ninth International Congress of
carboniferous Stratigraphy and Geology, p. 86-92.

Stephen O. Moshier, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Geology
Wheaton College
630/752-5856 office
630/752-5996 fax

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