Quantitative interrogation of a fossilized carbonate sand body – The Pleistocene Miami oolite of South Florida

Sam J. Purkis, Paul Mitch Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Exposures of the Pleistocene Miami oolite in South Florida provide excellent examples of preserved primary sedimentary features and subsequent diagenetic changes of a ‘fossilized’ ooid sand body that has been subaerially exposed in a tropical climate since its deposition during the last interglacial highstand – Marine Isotope Stage 5e. Using a robust airborne light detection and ranging digital terrain model and select outcrops, a detailed analysis of the morphologies and dimensions of the different portions of the Miami oolite was conducted. The sand body, extending 95 km north to south and approximately 15 km wide, consists of shoals (or bars) separated by tidal channels and is partly bounded on the ocean-facing side by a prograding barrier bar that collectively cover an area of approximately 1000 sq. km. Results of the quantitative interrogation of the Miami oolite are compared with those of previously published work from modern sand bodies on Great Bahama Bank including the Exumas, Schooners Cays and Tongue of the Ocean. Digital terrain models developed for these modern sand bodies on the Great Bahama Bank and the ancient Miami oolite were used as the basis for the definition of shoals, shoal crests (peaks) and channels which were examined with respect to their size, shape and orientation. The Exumas sand body is the best morphometric match when analysing the bars and the channels, and the Joulter Cays area is an analogue for the formation of the barrier bar and for burrow reworking of cross-bedding within stabilized sand shoals. The Exumas is a particularly compelling analogue for the Miami oolite with respect to length and overall visual comparison between the morphologies of the sand bodies, shoal (or bar) shape, number of tidal channels, channel length and width, and high areas parallel to the strike trend of the sand body (islands in the Exumas and possible islands as part of the Miami oolite barrier bar). Despite ca 115 kyr of subaerial exposure and meteoric diagenesis including karst, the morphology of the Miami oolite is still relatively intact to the point where it can be easily analysed and meaningful comparisons to modern systems can be made. The Miami oolite serves as a key reference example for comparison to Holocene sand units in the Bahamas – it validates the concept of comparative sedimentology and in particular emphasizes how results from the modern can improve the interpretation of a fossilized example.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1439-1464
Number of pages26
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • Comparative sedimentology
  • GIS
  • LiDAR
  • karst
  • morphometrics
  • oolite
  • sand body

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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