Modern Sedimentary Facies, Depositional Environments, and Major Controlling Processes on an Arid Siliciclastic Coast, Al Qahmah, SE Red Sea, Saudi Arabia


The facies and environments along the arid siliciclastic coast of Red Sea in Al Qahmah, Saudi Arabia are studied to establish a depositional model for interpretation of ancient rocks deposited in rift settings. Field and petrographic studies of 151 sediment samples in an area of 20 km2 define seven main facies types: beach, washover fan, tidal channel, dune, sabkha, delta, and wadi (seasonal stream). The wadi and delta facies are composed of poorly to moderately well-sorted, gravelly, medium-to-fine sands. Delta-front sands are redistributed by southward longshore currents to form a beach. Beach facies is composed of well-to-moderately sorted fine sands with minor gravels, which contain high concentrations of magnetite, ilmenite, garnet, pyroxene, amphibole, epidote, titanite, and apatite grains, indicating strong winnowing. Crabs and other burrowers destroy primary sedimentary structures and mix sediments in foreshore and backshore of the beaches. Wind and storm surge rework foreshore and backshore sediments to form washover fans. Sabkha facies occurs extensively in supratidal depressions behind beach, are flooded by rainstorms and spring tide, and capped by a 5-cm-thick crust composed of interlaminated halite, quartz, albite, minor gypsum and biotite, and rarely calcium carbonate. Halite occurs as thin sheets and gypsum as nodules with a chicken-wire structure. Clastic fraction in sabkha sediments ranges from coarse silt to coarse sand with moderate sorting, and is transported by currents and wind. Tidal inlets and tidal creeks assume abandoned wadis and are filled by muddy sand. Sand dunes and sand sheets are 1-7 m high and widely distributed due to variable wind directions. Fine-grained dune sands are moderately well sorted, whereas sheet sands are coarser and poorly sorted due to vegetation baffling. Most eolian sands are sourced from beach deposits. This suite of complex riverine, wave, tidal, wind, chemical, and biological processes form the facies mosaic along the arid Al Qahmah coast, which is strongly affected by climate-driven evaporation and wind action.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Arid coast; Modern environments; Red Sea; Sabkha; Saudi Arabia

Geographic Coverage

Saudi Arabia

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Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2018 Elsevier Ltd, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Apr 2018