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Journal of Sedimentary Research
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Kvale, E.P., H.W. Johnson, C.P. Sonett, A.W. Archer, A. Zawistoski, c. 1999, Calculating lunar retreat rates using tidal rhythmites: Journal of Sedimentary Research, Volume 69(6), November 1999.

Erik P. Kvale Indiana Geological Survey and Department of Geological Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, U.S.A.

Hollis W. Johnson Astronomy Department, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, U.S.A.

Charles P. Sonett Department of Planetary Sciences and Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, 85721, U.S.A.

Allen W. Archer Department of Geology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, 66506, U.S.A.

Ann Zawistoski Department of Geology, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota, 55057, U.S.A. Current address: 119 W. 15th St. #1, Minneapolis, MN 55403.


Support for this research was provided by grants from the Indiana University Dean of Faculties Multidisciplinary Ventures Research Fund, the Indiana Department of Commerce Coal Research Fund,the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Innovative Research Program and the National Science Foundation (EAR-9315937). We also thank Solar Sources, Inc. for the use of proprietary rock core.

Purpose for research (modified from abstract): Tidal rhythmites are small-scale sedimentary structures that can preserve a hierarchy of astronomically induced tidal periods. They can also preserve a record of periodic non-tidal sedimentation. If properly interpreted and understood, tidal rhythmites can be an important component of paleoastronomy and can be used to extract information on ancient lunar orbital dynamics including changes in Earth-Moon distance through geologic time. The intent of this paper is to present techniques that can be used to calculate ancient Earth-Moon distances. Each of these techniques, when used on modern high-tide data set, results in calculated estimates of lunar orbital periods and an Earth-Moon distance that fall well within 1 percent of the actual values. Comparisons to results from modern tidal data indicate that ancient tidal rhythmite data as short as 4 months can provide suitable estimates of lunar orbital periods if these tidal records are complete. An understanding of basic tidal theory allows for the evaluation of completeness of the ancient tidal record as derived from an analysis of tidal rhythmites. Utilizing the techniques presented within the paper, it appears from the rock record that lunar orbital retreat has slowed since the mid-Paleozoic. The rock data set from which a mid-Paleozoic Earth-Moon distance was calculated for this paper are archived herein.

Bibliographic references germane to understanding this data set:

Kvale, E.P. and Mastalerz, M., (1998), Evidence of ancient freshwater tidal deposits, in Alexander, C., Davis, R., and Henry, V., eds., Tidalites: Processes and Products: SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology) Special Publication 61, p. 95-107.

Kvale, E.P., Sowder, K.H., and Hill., B.T., (1998) Modern and ancient tides. Poster and explanatory notes, SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology), Tulsa, OK and Indiana Geological Survey, Bloomington, IN.

Nature of the archived data set:

The data was collected from Core 18hk-18 which is archived at the Indiana Geological Survey, Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A. This is a proprietary, confidential core that was drilled into the Lower Block Coal Member of the Pennsylvanian (Atokan) Brazil Formation in Daviess County, Indiana, U.S.A. The tidal rhythmites analyzed overlie the Lower Block Coal and lie within 2 meters of the top of the coal. The core was cut in half lengthwise and sanded flat with a belt sander. Measurements were made with a micrometer fitted to the ocular of a binocular scope.

The dataset consists of two columns of numbers. The first column is the lamina number and the second column is the corresponding lamina thickness in millimeters. Lamina 1 is the oldest. This is unfiltered and uncorrected data.

Location information

The core was obtained as part of a coal exploration project conducted in Daviess County, Indiana, U.S.A. The exact location of the core is confidential and not available to the public at this time. The sample was collected by Erik Kvale, Indiana Geological Survey, Bloomington, IN. This core and other core like it are available for further study by contacting the Indiana Geological Survey, Indiana University, 611 North Walnut Grove, Bloomington, IN 47405, U.S.A. Or via e-mail at:

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