Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana

Volumen 68, núm. 1, 2016, p. 111-128

Quaternary alluvial fans of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, northern México: OSL ages and implications for climatic history of the region

 David Zúñiga de León1,*, Stephen Kershaw2, Shannon Mahan3

1 Instituto de Ingeniería y Tecnología, Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, 32317 Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México.
2 Institute for the Environment, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UB8 3PH, United Kingdom.
3 U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado, 80225, United States of America.

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Alluvial fans formed from sediments derived from erosion of the Juárez Mountains in northernmost México have a significant flood impact on the Ciudad Juárez, which is built on the fan system. The northern part of Ciudad Juárez is the most active; further south, older parts of the fan, upon which the rest of the city is built, were largely eroded by natural processes prior to human habitation and subsequently modified only recently by human construction. Three aeolian sand samples, collected from the uppermost (youngest) parts of the fan system in the city area, in places where human intervention has not disturbed the sediment, and constrain the latest dates of fan building. Depositional ages of the Quaternary alluvial fans were measured using Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) on aeolian sands that have inter-fingered with alluvial fan material. These dates are: a) sample P1, 31 ka; b) sample P2, 41 ka; c) sample P3, 74 ka, between Oxygen Isotope Stages (OIS) 3 to 5. They demonstrate that fan development, in the area now occupied by the city, terminated in the Late Pleistocene, immediately after what we interpret to have been an extended period of erosion without further deposition, lasting from the Late Pleistocene to Holocene. The three dates broadly correspond to global glacial periods, implying that the cool, dry periods may reflect periods of aeolian transport in northern México in between phases that were wetter to form the alluvial fans. Alluvial fan margins inter-finger with fluvial terrace sediments derived from the Río Bravo, indicating an additional component of fan dissection by Río Bravo lateral erosion, presumed to be active during earlier times than our OSL ages, but these are not yet dated. Further dating is required to ascertain the controls on the fan and fluvial system.

Keywords: luminescence, northern México, Ciudad Juárez, alluvial fans.

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