School of Earth Sciences - Theses

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    The structural evolution, tectonics and hydrocarbons of the offshore Otway Basin, SE Australia
    PALMOWSKI, DANIEL BRUNO ( 2003)
    The offshore Otway Basin is part of Australia's passive southern margin, in which two separate rift-phases between the Tithonian? and Maastrichtian formed numerous depocentres. The research presented has analyzed and described the structural styles in the offshore Otway Basin and constructed a model of the basin's evolution since the Late Jurassic. The Otway Basin has been divided into four structural zones from north to south. Zone I comprises the onshore area and most of the shelf along the margin. Deep halfgraben developed during the first rift phase with characteristic horst and graben in Palaeozoic basement. To the south, zone I is bound by the Hinge Zone. Structural zone II covers the entire deepwater part of the Otway margin, characterized by a very thick Late Cretaceous section with pervasive Turonian faulting in the east and saucer-shaped depocentres in the west. Large halfgraben controlled deposition of the post-Turonian sedimentation in the eastern Otway Basin. Negative flower structures document strike-slip faulting. Strongly thinned lower laminated continental crust underlies this zone, limited to the south by the Outer Margin Highs. Domino faulting formed halfgraben and less commonly graben in Structural Zone III, the Outer Margin Highs. The base of the Outer Margin High sediments represents a regional decollement surface and domino faulting occurred along a second-generation decollement. Structural zone III is limited to the south by the continent-ocean-boundary with oceanic crust in structural zone IV. In the Shipwreck Trough, halfgraben died out against an accommodation zone which developed into the Shipwreck Fault with strike-slip offset .The regional stress regime indicate sinistral strike-slip movement along this fault zone. In the southwest Shipwreck Trough, four Turonian to early Coniacian syn-rift phases can be distinguished formed through footwall collapse to the north of the Hinge Zone. Differences in the amount of extension in the basin are accommodated along strike-slip faults such as the Shipwreck Fault. Sedimentation rates between 89 and 83 Ma increased whilst extension rates declined. Since approximately 83Ma sedimentation rates declined exponentially in phase with extension rates. Regionally, rapid Turonian extension formed a wide graben system between Antarctica and Australia. With the serpentinization of exhumed mantle peridotite in the Outer Margin Highs during the Coniacian in the east and Turonian in the west, the crustal deformation mechanism changed from mainly pure shear to simple shear along the newly established decollement. Fast spreading since the Mid Eocene caused gravitational collapse of the margin. Changes in heat flow possibly correlate with a change in deformation style in the continental crust. Parallel developments of sedimentation-rate and extension-rate suggest that most of the subsidence was structurally related. The Shipwreck Trough hydrocarbon fairway probably continues south into the Sorrell Basin. Possible stagnant conditions in deeper water offshore across the Hinge Zone might have enhanced the organic content of the Belfast Mudstone creating potential oil source rocks. Deepwater lntra-Paaratte reservoirs are not proven, but the alternating reflective to non-reflective seismic facies might indicate interbedded sands and shales. Large rollover anticlines would make excellent traps in the deepwater Otway Basin.
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    Environmental fate and transport of TNT in soil at the former explosives factory Maribyrnong
    Robertson, Tim ( 2002)
    Highly toxic explosives compounds can potentially contaminate soil and groundwater and pose extended environmental hazard due to their persistence. Explosives contamination within soils was investigated at the former Explosives Factory at Maribyrnong (EFM), by sampling and spectrophotometric / HPLC analysis. The environmental fate and transport of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) was assessed via batch and microcosm testing to quantify the influence of key subsurface sinks, adsorption, and transformation, and hence evaluate natural attenuation as a remediation option. A five tonne crystalline TNT source zone was delineated within soils at the base of a TNT process waste lagoon. This source was found to be supplying aqueous TNT loading to subsurface soils and groundwater, with the resultant plume localised to the shallow clay sequence due to a combination of natural attenuation processes and hydrogeological constraints. Freundlich described sorptive partitioning was found to be the main TNT sink at EFM (KF= 29 mL/g), while transformation rates were moderate (3.86 x 10-4 hr-1) due to aerobic conditions, and TNT toxicity inhibiting microbial degradation. Slow groundwater migration toward the Maribyrnong River (0.7 m/yr) and upward hydraulic gradients within underlying sand and gravel aquifers serve to increase TNT residence time within the clay aquitard, leading to increased interaction with adsorptive substrates and microbes and/or elements of the soil matrix responsible for aerobic transformation. Remediation of the contaminated lagoon may involve removal and treatment/landfilling of the top 1m of soil, then refilling with an impermeable capping allowing ongoing natural attenuation of residual TNT at depth via anaerobic degradation and sorption.
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    The origin of the South Australian Heat Flow Anomaly
    Gordon, Kate ( 2007)
    The South Australian Heat Flow Anomaly is a zone of high surface heat flow (averaging 92 ± 10 mW m-2); one of several central Australian Proterozoic terranes rich in heat producing elements (HPEs). Its bulk crustal average heat production is between two and three times the global average, indicating an enormous regional enrichment of uranium, thorium and potassium. Until now the distribution of HPEs in the crust has been calculated based on surface heat production; here, a method that uses the temperature at the Moho (as calculated by seismic inversion models) is introduced and found to have good agreement with models that assume a single enriched layer in the upper crust. This layer is found to be between 15-20km. The onset of recycling of uranium through the crust and mantle at the end of the Archaean has been proposed to have produced a peak in uranium available to crust-building, at least partially contributing to the creation of a long-lived geochemical anomaly in Central Australia. However analysis of lead isotopes of K-feldspars from the SAHFA indicates that at the time that crust was first extracted from the mantle, thorium was enriched relative to uranium (not vice versa). In order to investigate more recent effects of such high heat flow, the Tertiary cooling history of the Mt. Painter Inlier is investigated using (U-Th-Sm)/He thermochronology, which has a closure temperature of ~70°C. The most recent ages recorded are ~38 ± 5 Ma, and are argued to record burial of 1400 ± 200m under basement and Cretaceous sediment.
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    Australian Neoproterozoic glaciation: a study of the Sturtian glacial deposits in the Arkaroola region, Northern Flinders Ranges South Australia
    d’Auvergne, Marie-Gabrielle Anne ( 2005)
    The late Proterozoic Sturtian glacigenic succession exposed in the Arkaroola region of the Northern Flinders Ranges record the earliest of two global Neoproterozoic `Snowball' glacial events in the Adelaide Geosyncline, South Australia. Two stratigraphically disparate glacigenic units were recognised in the late Sturtian succession in the Arkaroola region, a subaerially deposited glacial till - the Merinjina Tillite, and an unclassified glaciomarine diamict unit. The Merinjina Tillite unit preserves a five-fold lithostratigraphy, hosting englacial melt-out deposits, glaciolacustrinal sediments and dominated by a massive to poorly-bedded tillite unit deposited directly from glacier ice. The glaciomarine diamictite preserves down-slope mass-flow deposits, as well as turbidite sequences, slumping and sediments from glacial fall-out including dropstones embedded in laminated muddy-shale and is interpreted as a basin-margin marine deposit. Palaeocurrent analyses across the Northern Flinders Ranges and stratigraphic reviews of analogous Sturtian glacigenic deposits elsewhere in the Northern Flinders Zone suggest palaeotidal influence from the north-north-west and indicate a north-north-west-sloping basin margin in the Northern Flinders Zone. Two major palaeoclimatic phases were recognised in glacigenic rocks the Arkaroola region. A glacial advance phase is represented by the advance of continental glacial sediments, across a topographically-elevated, subaerial surface and extending down-slope into a submarine basin. The other, represented regionally by dropstone shales, is interpreted as glacial retreat and the termination of Sturtian `Snowball Earth' conditions. A rise in palaeo-atmospheric temperatures is inferred, causing melting of continental and marine ice-sheets and resulting in a regionally-extensive marine transgression. The slight increase in water temperature during glacial retreat is believed to have triggered carbonate precipitation and the ultimate deposition of cap dolomites which overly the glacigenic sediments across the Adelaide Geosyncline.
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    Detrital zircon geochronology of Neoproterozoic glacials, flinders ranges, South Australia
    McCluskey, Rachael ( 2009)
    A geochronological survey of Neoproterozoic glacial sediments in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia has traced possible source rocks and potential transport directions. A distinct change in the dominant detrital zircon populations present in the earlier Sturtian glacials and the later Marinoan glacials is clearly evident. The major zircon populations present in each of the Sturtian-age samples lie within 1500 -1800Ma, while the majority of Marinoan samples lie between 1100-1400Ma. Potential source rocks for the 1500-1800Ma population include the Gawler and Cumamona Cratons, which are local to the study area. The 1100-1400Ma. population can be traced further north to the Musgrave Inlier in addition to the Albany-Fraser belt and Pinjarra Orogen , north west of the sample localities. The change in zircon population could therefore be accounted for by a change in glacial transport direction during the respective epochs. This may indicate a difference in the severity of the glaciations. An alternative explanation for the difference in detrital zircon signatures could be a change in source rock erosion during each glacial period. Uplift of the Musgrave Inlier or similar basement terrains between the glaciations would provide younger zircons for deposition within the Marinoan sediments. The large unconformity known as `The South Ranges Movement' that is evident in much of the former Centralian Superbasin may testify to such an orogenic event having occurred. Previous studies of detrital zircons in the region provide support for this conclusion.
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    Hydromorphology of within-channel river benches
    Vietz, Geoffrey John ( 2008)
    The fluvial morphology of a river channel is a function of the river’s hydrologic and sediment regime. Within-channel river benches are a fluvial feature widely identified in the international literature as geomorphically and ecologically important. Despite this recognition the relationship between bench morphology and the flow regime is poorly understood. The aim of this thesis is to identify the components of the flow regime responsible for the formation and destruction of within-channel benches. Opinions on the formative flows for benches are highly varied with reports that benches are formed by flows which just inundate the bench; to low-flow periods and sub-bankfull flows; bankfull flows and the annual flood; and moderate, medium and catastrophic sized floods. A large body of research also treats benches as a static morphology. Opinions on destructive flows are similarly varied. There is little empirical evidence for these suggestions. A bench is most commonly referred to as comprising a horizontal (planar) surface which results from within-channel deposition, but the term is also used to describe bars, floodplains and erosional features. The inability of researchers to agree on the relationships between bench morphology and river hydrology is influenced by the lack of a consistent definition and classification for benches. To adequately address the aim this thesis is presented in two parts: Part A addresses bench nomenclature and provides a sound basis for Part B which addresses the processes of bench formation and destruction. (for complete abstract open document)
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    Heat flow modelling in the Adelaide Geosyncline, South Australia and implications for geothermal resource exploration
    Musson, Alexander James ( 2008)
    The central theme of this research is the continental heat flow at the surface of the Earth. Radioactive heat production in the lithosphere and heat flux from convection in the asthenosphere are first order controls on surface heat flow. Accurate heat flow determinations are essential in understanding the geodynamics of the lithosphere and refining resource exploration models, in particular those related to geothermal resources. The focus of this investigation is confined to the understanding of heat refraction as a result of the heterogeneity and anisotropy of the geological subsurface, under a steady-state heat conduction regime. Within the South Australian Heat Flow Anomaly, an area of particular significance for geothermal resource exploration is the deep seated Torrens Hinge Zone, a strip of tectonic transition between the Archaean Gawler Craton to the west and the Neoproterozoic to Cambrian sedimentary cover of the Adelaide Geosyncline to the east. (For complete abstract open document)
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    The weather and climate of Australia at the Last Glacial Maximum
    Hope, Pandora ( 2005)
    The global climate has experienced four glacial cycles in the last 420,000 years, with each cycle characterised by a prolonged period of cooling culminating in maximal glaciation followed by a brief warm period. The most recent period of maximal glaciation is termed the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and occurred about 21,000 years ago. We currently live in one of the warm periods. The global climate is changing, and it is becoming more important to understand the extremes of the climate system and how well our modelling capability can capture those extremes. There has been a modelling intercomparison project established to examine how global general circulation models compare in simulating past climates, including the LGM. Analysis and comparison of these model results has been presented for many parts of the globe, but there has not been a comparison of the different model results over the Australian region. This thesis aims to fill that gap and explore the simulated LGM weather and climate of Australia and its drivers in more detail. Comparison with proxy evidence is also undertaken, and inconsistencies seen in the literature addressed. The Australian climate at the LGM was believed to be generally cooler, drier and possibly windier from proxy evidence in the literature. In the comparison done here the mean temperature and precipitation fields from most models show cooler and drier conditions, with some seasonal variability, but there are some strong outliers. It was found that the differences were not dependent on model resolution, but that the surface parameterisations were highly important for these fields. The shifts in the circulation were examined both in the model results and with a study of the non-linear link between the wind, surface moisture and dunes, which are a proxy for past winds. All the models simulate a southward shift in the westerlies in the Australian region. This is strongly driven byte prescribed sea-surface temperatures. Australia's current wind regime is conducive to dune building. However, the binding effect of soil moisture (or vegetation) is strong enough to limit present day movement, whereas in the drier climate at the LGM there was a capacity for sand movement. The analysis of dune orientations did not produce conclusive evidence for how the westerlies might have shifted at the LGM. An apparent enigma in the proxy evidence at the LGM is the high lake levels in Australia’s south east, while most inland lakes were dry. Previous authors believed that the precipitation was still low, but the high lake levels were driven by lowered potential evaporation. The hydrological cycle was generally depressed in the LGM simulations, but the potential for evaporation remained high. Thus an alternative hypothesis is posed based on increased run off due to a known shift in the vegetation types and a lag in the timing of the run off due to snowmelt. The analysis here shows that our capacity to simulate climates quite different from the present is still developing, but that model results can help explain apparent inconsistencies in the reconstruction of past climates from proxies.
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    Vertical structure Of atmospheric trace gases over Southeast Australia
    Pak, Bernard Ching-Yuen ( 2000-01)
    Trace gas (CO2 and its carbon and oxygen isotopes, CH4, CO, H2 and N2O) vertical profile data above Cape Grim, Tasmania for the period April 1992 to February 1997 are investigated. A climatology of the distribution of each trace gas has been compiled from statistical treatment of the raw data. These climatologies are useful for verification of transport model outputs. Here, the CO2 climatology is compared to simulation results from two transport models (Melbourne University Transport Model and TM2Z) using three different sets of CO2 fluxes separately (compiled with different methods by different authors). Large discrepancies are found between simulations and observations, especially in the free troposphere (4-6 km). By considering emission ratios, trajectories, satellite fire counts and simulation with biomass burning fluxes, the influence of tropical biomass burning plumes on the southeastern Australian region in the austral winter/spring is studied and quantified. This identification process requires a multiple-species approach where the large CO anomalies and the unexpected behaviour of H2 are most revealing. The frequent presence of burning plumes in the mid troposphere complicates one of the original motivations for the Cape Grim Overflight Program, which is to estimate the air-sea exchange of CO2 in this region. A suggestion arising from analysis of pre-1992 aircraft sampling in this region was that the regional CO2 air-sea flux south of Australia is exceptionally large.
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    The hydrogeology of the Gippsland Basin, and its role in the genesis and accumulation of petroleum
    Nahm, Gi Young ( 2002)
    The Gippsland Basin of southeastern Australia is the most energy-rich basin of Australia producing petroleum, gas and brown coal. Three-quarters of the Basin lies offshore and the rest onshore. The basin was initiated as a rift valley, caused by the separation of the Australian continent from the Antarctic followed by a number of tectonic events throughout the basin history. Early Cretaceous sedimentary rocks form the basement, which is in turn covered with Late Cretaceous to Recent sediment of sand, clay, limestone, and brown coal seams. The total thickness of the in-filling sediments offshore attains up to 6000 m, but onshore is up to 1200 m. There are three main acquifer systems, the Hydrostratigraphic Units 2, 4, and 7, all of which are confined. The two lower aquifer systems, Units 4 and 7, contain high temperature groundwater. It is generally agreed that the hydrocarbons offshore have been derived from terrestrial matters including brown coal and ligneous clay offshore. In the present study, the author has developed a case that hydrocarbons offshore being derived not only from the offshore source but also from onshore brown coals and coaly matter and in this hydrocarbon forming processes, groundwater has played a significant role. The Central Deep, in particular, provides favourable conditions for hydrocarbon maturation. Throughout the basin history, the Central Deep has experienced the oil window temperatures. In supporting this hypothesis, geochemical studies on groundwater, brown coal, and hydrocarbons as well as hydrodynamics are presented.