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Strata and Time: Probing the Gaps in Our Understanding

Product Code: SP404
Series: GSL Special Publications - print copy
Author/Editor: Edited by D.G. Smith, R.J. Bailey, P.M. Burgess and A.J. Fraser
Publication Date: 04 June 2015
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Special Publication 404.

The superposition of stratified rocks is an unmistakable manifestation of the history of sedimentary processes through deep time.  However, the relationship between the preserved strata of the rock record and the passage of geological time, indisputable in principle, is unknowable in detail; incompleteness is an essential property of the record. That gaps exist at all scales in sedimentary successions is easily demonstrated from consideration of sediment accumulation rates, and expectations of continuity and completeness at any scale are correspondingly inadvisable.  Locating and quantifying the gaps in the record is, however, very much less straightforward.  Predictive modelling of strata – essential for their practical exploitation – requires such geohistorical understanding, yet over-simplified assumptions about how time is represented in rock can still lead to inadequate or even false conclusions.  The contributions to this volume describe a range of practical studies, theoretical investigations, and numerical experiments in which the nature of the strata/time relationship is explored.

Cover image: ‘Hutton's unconformity’, a lino print by Jean Slee-Smith.

Published online 22/04/2015. Print copies available from 4 June 2015.

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Type: Book
Ten Digit ISBN:
Thirteen Digit ISBN: 978-1-86239-655-5
Publisher: GSL
Binding: Hardback
Pages: 325
Weight: 0.91 kg



SMITH, D. G., BAILEY, R. J., BURGESS, P. M. & FRASER, A. J. Strata and time: probing the gaps in our understanding


Continuity, completeness, and the Geological Time Scale

MIALL, A. D. Updating uniformitarianism: stratigraphy as just a set of ‘frozen accidents’

SMITH, A. G., BARRY, T., BOWN, P., COPE, J., GALE, A., GIBBARD, P., GREGORY, J., HOUNSLOW, M., KEMP, D., KNOX, R., MARSHALL, J., OATES, M., RAWSON, P., POWELL, J. & WATERS, C. GSSPs, globalstratigraphy and correlation


Gaps, fractals and scaling

SADLER, P. M. & JEROLMACK, D. J. Scaling laws for aggradation, denudation and progradation rates: the case for time-scale invariance at sediment sources and sinks

BAILEY, R. J. The power-law attributes of stratigraphic layering and their possible significance

TIPPER, J. C. The importance of doing nothing: stasis in sedimentation systems and its stratigraphic effects


Stratal hierarchies and cycles

POLLITT, D. A., BURGESS, P. M. & WRIGHT, V. P. Investigating the occurrence of hierarchies of cyclicity in platform carbonates

VAUGHAN, S., BAILEY, R. J. & SMITH, D. G. Cyclostratigraphy: data filtering as a source of spurious spectral peaks


B., HÜSING, S. K., KUIPER, K. F., LOURENS, L. J., RIVERA, T., TUENTER, E., VAN DE WAL, R. S. W., WOTZLAW, J.-F. & ZEEDEN, C. Stratigraphic continuity and fragmentary sedimentation: the success of cyclostratigraphy as part of integrated stratigraphy


Strata and time in the field and subsurface

HAMPSON, G. J., MORRIS, J. E. & JOHNSON, H. D. Synthesis of time-stratigraphic relationships and their impact on hydrocarbon reservoir distribution and performance, Bridport Sand Formation, Wessex Basin, UK

QAYYUM, F., DE GROOT, P., HEMSTRA, N. & CATUNEANU, O. 4D Wheeler diagrams: concept and Applications

PLOTNICK, R. E., KENIG, F. & SCOTT, A. C. Using the voids to fill the gaps: caves, time, and stratigraphy

TRABUCHO-ALEXANDRE, J. More gaps than shale: erosion of mud and its effect on preserved geochemical and palaeobiological signals

CROSSLEY, J. D. & CLARK, H. E. More gap than record? Qualitative and quantitative assessment of stratigraphic gaps in a field based study, with examples from the Lower Silurian Pentamerus Beds of Shropshire, England and the Lower Ordovician Ribband Gp of County Wexford, Ireland

SCOTT, A. C. & STEPHENS, R. S. British Pennsylvanian (Carboniferous) coal-bearing sequences: where is the time?

LARGE, D. J. & MARSHALL, C. Use of carbon accumulation rates to estimate the duration of coal seams and the influence of atmospheric dust deposition on coal composition




Daniel LeHeron

Featured in Geoscientist vol 27 March 2017

Emerging from the 2012 William Smith flagship meeting, this book is an excellent resume of the problems associated with incompleteness in the sedimentary record, how much time is missing (e.g. in shale: paper by Tabucho-Alexandre, and in karst landscapes: Plotnick et al).

Many of the chapters are highly provocative either in title or in content: the first major paper by Miall, for example, asks whether uniformitarianism requires updating or whether it is, instead, a series of “frozen accidents”.

To my mind, the book is an essential remedial, stratigraphic read for any geologist, capturing the state of the art and best practice in the same volume.

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