The geology and geomorphology of the Sabkhat Matti region (United Arab Emirates) : a modern analogue for ancient desert sediments from north-west Europe
Sabkhat Matti forms a wide depression that extends from the coastline of western Abu Dhabi, in the north, approximately 125km south. The area has been studied with a view to investigating the impact that Quaternary climatic changes have had on the geology and geomorphology of modern desert sediments. The depression was formed by (?Pliocene) fluvial erosion followed by deflation which was localised in the region by the presence of underlying N-S fractures and lineaments. Sabkhat Matti and the deserts of the United Arab Emirates form the upwind, north-eastern margin of the interior desert of SE Arabia. The desert geomorphology of the Emirates is dominated by four main depositional processes: coastal accretion of marine carbonates, the formation of salt flats in low-lying areas, aeolian deflation and deposition to the south and alluvial deposition adjacent to the Oman Mountains in the west. Some of the desert landforms that are present in the U.A.E. were generated during earlier, glacially influenced climatic conditions. These landforms have been influential in affecting the subsequent geomorphological development of the deserts of the U.A.E. Two ancient desert sequences which form hydrocarbon reservoirs have been studied from NW Europe, the Lower Triassic, Ormskirk Sandstone of the Irish Sea Basin and the Lower Permian, Upper Slochteren Sandstone of the Southern North Sea (offshore Netherlands). The sedimentological interpretations of these ancient desert sequences has benefitted from a thorough understanding of the modern depositional processes. This knowledge has also assisted in the development of a method for modelling the theoretical accumulation of desert sediments. The idealised facies cycles that have been produced using this technique have closely resembled those observed in the ancient desert sequences from NW Europe.