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Delta System 
Lecture 6#
Introduction 
• Why studying deltaic system? 
• Their sandstones constitute the majority of the producing 
reservoirs in siliciclastic basin
Rivision 
• 1. What type of river systems exist? 
• 2. What are the characteristics of flood plain can be seen from 
the imagery? 
• 3. Describe lithofacies at Point A
Answer: 
1. Braided, meandering and anastomosing 
2. i. Adjacent to the channels 
ii. Crevasse splay deposits 
3. 
Electric log (E-log)
Typical delta look like
Where are deltas found? 
1. Deltas can occur in lakes and inland seas as well as in the 
ocean, but they are most important in the open ocean 
(Boggs). 
2. Deltas are particularly common in the modern ocean 
owing to post-Pleistocene sea-level rise coupled with 
high sediment loads carried by many rivers. 
3. They often contain extensive wetlands, whose high 
biological productivity makes them vital nursery grounds 
for fisheries.
4. Huge amounts of coal, oil, and natural gas are 
found in subsurface ancient deltaic deposits. 
Deltas seldom form on active, subducting 
continental margins because there is no stable 
shallow shelf on which sediments can accumulate. 
5. Twenty-five of the world’s largest deltas are found 
on passive margins of continents. They are 
categorized according to features within the delta 
plain and by energies acting on the delta (tide, 
wave, and fluvial). The size of a delta is dependent 
on the size of the drainage basin, the elevation of 
the land, and climate.
Morphology 
Three geomorphological elements 
1. Delta Plain 
• Subaerial; Flat swampy plain 
• Fluvial process generally predominate 
• Incised by fluvial distributary channels 
2. Delta front 
• Shallow submarine platform 
• Most sand accumulates (mouth bars) 
3. Prodelta 
• Most distal; Water depth > 10-15 m 
• Bulk suspension settles out
Distributary 
Channels 
Prodelta 
Distributary 
Mouth Bar 
Aluvial Plain 
Delta Plain 
Delta Front 
Previous Coastline 
Floodplain Bay 
Levee Crevasse Splay 
Low River 
Flow 
Flood Level
Types of Deltas 
Morphology reflects the type and intensity of the 
hydrodynamic processes 
1. River-dominated delta 
• elongated distributary and mouth bar 
2. Tide-dominated delta 
• usually funnel-shaped mouth 
• mouth bar developed as a series of ridges or isolated 
bar 
3. Wave-dominated delta 
• mouth bar reworking parallel to the coastline
Fluvial-Dominated Deltas 
Fluvially-dominated deltas are primarily controlled by the 
water density difference between the inflowing river water 
and the standing water on the basin. 
Different flow types that determine the distribution of 
sediment and sedimentary structures formed in the delta 
are homopycnal flow, hyperpycnal flow, and hypopycnal 
flow
Homopycnal flow occurs when the density of the river 
water is equal to the density of the standing water in the 
basin. 
Hyperpycnal flow is produced when the density of the 
river water entering the basin is greater than the density of 
the standing water in the ocean basin. This higher density 
river water will flow below the standing water in the basin 
because of the difference in density. 
Hypopycnal flow is associated with a lower river water 
density entering a higher density standing water in the 
basin. Under these conditions, the river water will flow out 
over the standing water, gradually depositing the 
suspended clay portion of the sediment load on the 
prodelta.
Fluvial Dominated
Tide-Dominated Deltas 
- Deltas which undergo strong tidal interaction 
- As sediment travels out of the delta into the sea, high tides and flood 
tides confine sediment on the delta plain and low tides carry 
sediment seaward. 
- Tide-dominated deltas typically occur in locations of large tidal ranges 
or high tidal current speeds. In situations such as these, where the 
sediment supply is over powered by strong tidal currents, the delta 
tends to be very small.
Characteristic of Tidal Delta 
1. Heights of up to 15-20 meters close to the shoreline. 
2. Ridges are greater in relief and size when there is more 
. 
tidal discharge than fluvial discharge. 
3. The delta has a gradational, upward coarsening sequence 
of muds; interbedded sands, silts, and muds; and then 
fine to medium sands 
4. Due to the eroding effect of tides, the sands display coss-bedding, 
the sand ridge field can be truncated through 
erosion, and the distributary channel sediments contain 
more slack-water mud drapes than usual.
Tide 
Dominated
Wave-Dominated Deltas 
- Open ocean basin accepts more water input, which means there 
is potential for greater wave energy 
- High wave interference causes conflicted or deflected river 
mouths. 
- Less influence from fluvial sources & breaking waves cause 
immediate mixing of fresh and salt water.
A bar may form in the immediate vicinity of the 
distributary mouth, often supplemented by landward 
migrating swash bars. 
The wave action reworks the sediment, making it much 
sandier than other types of deltas, coarsening upward. 
Sediment is delivered by the river and is transported 
along the coast. The sediment is then deposited as 
beaches and bars and the development of distributaries is 
limited
Characteristics of deltaic deposits (conclusion) 
 lithologies – gravel, sandstone and mudstone 
mineralogy – variable, delta-front facies may be compositionally mature 
 texture – moderately mature in delta-top sands and gravels, mature in 
wave-reworked delta-front deposits 
 bed geometry – lens-shaped delta channels, mouthbar lenses variably 
elongate, prodelta deposits thin bedded 
 sedimentary structures – cross-bedding and lamination in delta-top and 
mouth-bar facies 
 palaeocurrents – topset facies indicate direction of progradation, wave and 
tidal reworking variable on delta front 
 fossils – association of terrestrial plants and animals of the delta top with 
marine fauna of the delta front 
 colour – not diagnostic, delta-top deposits may be oxidised 
 facies associations – typically occur overlying shallow- marine facies and 
overlain by fluvial facies in an overall progradational pattern.
Delta

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Delta

  • 2. Introduction • Why studying deltaic system? • Their sandstones constitute the majority of the producing reservoirs in siliciclastic basin
  • 3. Rivision • 1. What type of river systems exist? • 2. What are the characteristics of flood plain can be seen from the imagery? • 3. Describe lithofacies at Point A
  • 4. Answer: 1. Braided, meandering and anastomosing 2. i. Adjacent to the channels ii. Crevasse splay deposits 3. Electric log (E-log)
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  • 7. Where are deltas found? 1. Deltas can occur in lakes and inland seas as well as in the ocean, but they are most important in the open ocean (Boggs). 2. Deltas are particularly common in the modern ocean owing to post-Pleistocene sea-level rise coupled with high sediment loads carried by many rivers. 3. They often contain extensive wetlands, whose high biological productivity makes them vital nursery grounds for fisheries.
  • 8. 4. Huge amounts of coal, oil, and natural gas are found in subsurface ancient deltaic deposits. Deltas seldom form on active, subducting continental margins because there is no stable shallow shelf on which sediments can accumulate. 5. Twenty-five of the world’s largest deltas are found on passive margins of continents. They are categorized according to features within the delta plain and by energies acting on the delta (tide, wave, and fluvial). The size of a delta is dependent on the size of the drainage basin, the elevation of the land, and climate.
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  • 10. Morphology Three geomorphological elements 1. Delta Plain • Subaerial; Flat swampy plain • Fluvial process generally predominate • Incised by fluvial distributary channels 2. Delta front • Shallow submarine platform • Most sand accumulates (mouth bars) 3. Prodelta • Most distal; Water depth > 10-15 m • Bulk suspension settles out
  • 11. Distributary Channels Prodelta Distributary Mouth Bar Aluvial Plain Delta Plain Delta Front Previous Coastline Floodplain Bay Levee Crevasse Splay Low River Flow Flood Level
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  • 13. Types of Deltas Morphology reflects the type and intensity of the hydrodynamic processes 1. River-dominated delta • elongated distributary and mouth bar 2. Tide-dominated delta • usually funnel-shaped mouth • mouth bar developed as a series of ridges or isolated bar 3. Wave-dominated delta • mouth bar reworking parallel to the coastline
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  • 17. Fluvial-Dominated Deltas Fluvially-dominated deltas are primarily controlled by the water density difference between the inflowing river water and the standing water on the basin. Different flow types that determine the distribution of sediment and sedimentary structures formed in the delta are homopycnal flow, hyperpycnal flow, and hypopycnal flow
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  • 19. Homopycnal flow occurs when the density of the river water is equal to the density of the standing water in the basin. Hyperpycnal flow is produced when the density of the river water entering the basin is greater than the density of the standing water in the ocean basin. This higher density river water will flow below the standing water in the basin because of the difference in density. Hypopycnal flow is associated with a lower river water density entering a higher density standing water in the basin. Under these conditions, the river water will flow out over the standing water, gradually depositing the suspended clay portion of the sediment load on the prodelta.
  • 21. Tide-Dominated Deltas - Deltas which undergo strong tidal interaction - As sediment travels out of the delta into the sea, high tides and flood tides confine sediment on the delta plain and low tides carry sediment seaward. - Tide-dominated deltas typically occur in locations of large tidal ranges or high tidal current speeds. In situations such as these, where the sediment supply is over powered by strong tidal currents, the delta tends to be very small.
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  • 24. Characteristic of Tidal Delta 1. Heights of up to 15-20 meters close to the shoreline. 2. Ridges are greater in relief and size when there is more . tidal discharge than fluvial discharge. 3. The delta has a gradational, upward coarsening sequence of muds; interbedded sands, silts, and muds; and then fine to medium sands 4. Due to the eroding effect of tides, the sands display coss-bedding, the sand ridge field can be truncated through erosion, and the distributary channel sediments contain more slack-water mud drapes than usual.
  • 26. Wave-Dominated Deltas - Open ocean basin accepts more water input, which means there is potential for greater wave energy - High wave interference causes conflicted or deflected river mouths. - Less influence from fluvial sources & breaking waves cause immediate mixing of fresh and salt water.
  • 27. A bar may form in the immediate vicinity of the distributary mouth, often supplemented by landward migrating swash bars. The wave action reworks the sediment, making it much sandier than other types of deltas, coarsening upward. Sediment is delivered by the river and is transported along the coast. The sediment is then deposited as beaches and bars and the development of distributaries is limited
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  • 38. Characteristics of deltaic deposits (conclusion)  lithologies – gravel, sandstone and mudstone mineralogy – variable, delta-front facies may be compositionally mature  texture – moderately mature in delta-top sands and gravels, mature in wave-reworked delta-front deposits  bed geometry – lens-shaped delta channels, mouthbar lenses variably elongate, prodelta deposits thin bedded  sedimentary structures – cross-bedding and lamination in delta-top and mouth-bar facies  palaeocurrents – topset facies indicate direction of progradation, wave and tidal reworking variable on delta front  fossils – association of terrestrial plants and animals of the delta top with marine fauna of the delta front  colour – not diagnostic, delta-top deposits may be oxidised  facies associations – typically occur overlying shallow- marine facies and overlain by fluvial facies in an overall progradational pattern.