Stratigraphic Variability of Upper Holocene Marginal Marine Sediments Along the Al Qahmah Coast of Red Sea, Saudi Arabia


The stratigraphic architecture of Upper Holocene sediments along the coast of Al Qahmah in southern Red Sea, Saudi Arabia, provides a high-resolution analog of marginal marine carbonate and siliciclastic sedimentation under variable climatic, tectonic, and sea-level conditions. The sediments include a basal shallow marine limestone and overlying beach, deltaic, fluvial, eolian, and sabkha siliciclastic deposits, comprising four stratigraphic units ranging from 10s to 100 s cm thick. A lithostratigraphy is established using subsurface stratigraphic and petrographic data from 64 trenches and three shallow refraction seismic sections. A chronostratigraphy is established using four age points and sedimentation rates. The entire interval has been deposited in the last ~4000 years. Significant stratigraphic variability is reflected by vertical and lateral changes in the thickness, type, and stratal geometry of the four units. Five major geological events are interpreted: Initial shallow marine carbonate deposition during a relative sea-level highstand was terminated by seaward progradation of deltaic-beach sediments during a slow shoreline regression. This is followed by a major stream channel incision during the maximum regression and a relative sea-level fall. The ensuing fluvial channel filling, transgressive ravinement, and deposition of beach sediments signify a relative sea-level rise. Finally, eolian, sabkha, and beach sediments have been deposited in a stabilized and diversified environmental setting under an arid climate. The lacuna associated with stream erosion and transgressive ravinement is up to ~400 years long, resulting in a stratigraphic completeness of ~88%. The sedimentation rate of the siliciclastic sediments is ~0.1 cm/year estimated at a scale of 1000s of years. Episodic syn-depositional faulting in the source area and depositional site, relative seal-level change, autogenic environmental shift, and/or climatic changes between humid and arid conditions have collectively played variable roles in the formation of the stratigraphic variability. The interpreted tectonic, relative sea-level, and climatic trends offer an important data point for future studies in the Red Sea region and beyond for the Late Holocene.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering


Missouri University of Science and Technology, Grant None

Keywords and Phrases

Climate; Sea level; Sedimentation rate; Stratigraphic completeness; Tectonic

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Article - Journal

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Publication Date

01 May 2022