33 Chapter 3Sedimentary Rocks Rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico through Alabama and other Gulf Coast states are typically brown, yellow-orange or red in color due to the presence of fine particulate material suspended within the water column. This particulate material is called sediment, and it was produced through the erosionand weatheringof rocks exposed far inland from the coast (including the Appalachian Mountains). Sediment transported by rivers eventually finds its way into a standing body of water. Sometimes this is a lake or an inland sea, but for those of us that reside in southern Alabama, it is almost always the Gulf of Mexico. When rivers enter standing bodies of water (e.g., the Gulf), the sediment loadthat they are carrying is dropped and deposition occurs. Usually deposition forms more or less parallel layers called strata. Given time, and the processes of compaction and cementation, the sediment may be lithifiedinto sedimentary rock. It is important to note that deposition of sediment is not restricted to river mouths. It also occurs on floodplains surrounding rivers, on tidal flats, adjacent to mountains in alluvial fans, and in the deepest portions of the oceans. Sedimentation occurs everywhere and this is one of the reasons why your humble author finds sedimentary geology so fascinating. Sedimentary rocks comprise approximately 30% of all of the rocks exposed at the Earth's surface. Those that are composed of broken rock fragments formed during erosion of bedrock are termed siliciclastic sedimentary rocks (or clastic for short). Sedimentary rocks can also be produced through chemical and biochemicaldeposition. These processes give Figure shows a schematic diagram of a delta complex prograding over top of shallowly dipping strata. From: LeConte, J., 1905. Elements of Geology. D. Appleton and Co., New York, NY, 667p.
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