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David M. Schultz, Timothy M. DelSole, Robert M. Rauber, and Walter A. Robinson
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Marcello Gugliotta, Jonathan G. Fairman Jr., David M. Schultz, and Stephen S. Flint


The Lajas Formation in the Neuquén Basin, Argentina, consists of a succession of mainly deltaic deposits. In the Middle Jurassic (170 million years ago), the basin was in western Gondwana roughly at the same paleolatitude as its present location (32°–40°S). Decimeter-scale, interbedded, coarser-grained and finer-grained beds in channelized and nonchannelized deltaic deposits have been interpreted as a product of variability in river discharge. The coarser-grained sandstone beds have erosional bases and contain mudstone clasts; internal cross bedding is commonly directed paleoseawards. These beds are interpreted as deposition during river-flood conditions. In contrast, the finer-grained beds are composed of interlaminated sandstone and mudstone, deposited during interflood periods. Bidirectional ripples and millimeter-scale sand–mud laminae suggest the influence of tides. This sedimentological evidence raises the question of whether these cycles represent annual variability in fluvial input. To answer this question, a simulation using the Fast Ocean Atmosphere Model for the Middle Jurassic was run to equilibrium. The model shows that the paleoclimate of the Neuquén Basin was characterized by a strong seasonal cycle, with a wet winter and a dry summer. Model runs suggest that February mean temperatures were 28°C with 4-mm precipitation (±4 mm standard deviation) per month, whereas August mean temperatures were 8°C with 34-mm precipitation (±17 mm standard deviation) per month. The strong seasonal cycles in the simulation, representing 24% of the variance in the precipitation time series, suggest that the sedimentological cycles represent annual variations. The simulation also suggests a Middle Jurassic climate where increased seasonality of precipitation occurred farther poleward than previously thought.

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