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Comun. Sem Geol. Portugal, 1986. t. 72. fase. 1/2. pp. 33-44.

Comunicaes dos
Se rvios Geolgicos
de Port ugal
Gaussian Decomposition of a Multimodal Curve
alld its Application to Sedimentology
Key word.,; Gaw;sian decomposition; sed ime ntology; grainsiLc analysis: multimooal distributions: FORTRAN 77.
AbslraCI: This papcr prcse nts a computer program. written in FORTRAN 77. which wi ll decompose a multi modal curve imo ii
uscr-specificd number of gaussJan component curves. A comparison w:th othcr methods of dccompositlOll lnto gaussmn component curves IS
done. This program has bceu utilizcd in the analysis of grain size distributioll curves. Some applicat ion, of this progra m to botlom sediments
of the!'.; onh Portugal Shelf are presented.
Pala\'ra.N'have: Decompo,io gaussiana; sediment ologia; anilisc granulomtrica; distribuies multimodai,; FORTRAN 77.
Resumo: Aprescmase um programa escrito cm FORTRAN 77 que permite decompr uma curva multimodal nas curvas gaussianas
que a compem. sendo o oumero dcstas curvas especificado pelo utilimdor. Efectua-,_e_ a comparao deste mtodo com .out ros mtodo, de
decomposio de curvas nas suas componentes gaussianas. Este programa tcm sido uu hzado na anlise de curvas de di stnbuio granulom-
\fica de sedimentos. sendo apresentados resultados oblidos com a aplicao deste m61UlJu a Ho consolidados da plataforma
continental portuguesa setent rional.
It is widely acknowledged that t he dist ri buti on
of grai n size in a sediment that is full y adjusted to
it s physical environment is approxi mately lognor-
mal (ROGE RS. 1959; S PENCER, 1963; TANNER. 1964).
Ir partic\e size in such a sedi ment is descri bed using
a logarithmie seale (such as t he p seale) t hen t he
distribul ion is normal (or ga ussian). More com-
monlya sediment is ro und to cont ain two or more
normal subpopulations, and lhe di st ributi on curve
is said to be polymodal or multi modal (CURRAY.
1960; TANNER, 1964; Van ANDEL, 1964; VISHER,
1969; OSER, 1972; DAUPHI N. 1980). A polymodal
distri bution cannot be descri bed in terms or the
pa rametcrs or a si ngle normal populat ion, but ins-
tead should be resolved into its several nor mal
compone nls. each or which may t hen be deseribed
in the conventional ma nner (HARRI S, J958; CUR
RAY, 1960; OSER. J972; DAUPHIN. 1980), Each nor-
mal subpopul a lion is called a mode. J . CURRAY
( 1960) poinled out that the individual modes con-
tain much informati on rega rding sediment disper-
saI. Van ANDEL (1 964) used t his a pproach to des-
cribe ma rinc sediment s of inter mediate depth, and
late r lo interpret size dist ri bution in silts from lhe
Pa nama Bas in sedi me nts (Van ANDEL. J973) .
R. OSER ( 1972) and J, DAUPl-IlN (1 980) decomposed
size dist ributi on curves associaled with pelagic
sediments. and showed Ihal t he individual modes
could be interpreted in terms of composit ion. dis-
persai and provenance.
Decompositi on of a polymodal curve into its
constit uent modes has been approached in a variety
of ways. Peak posit ions ca n be esti mated by visua l
inspect ion or the polymodal dist ri bution curve (CUR.
RAY. 1960; Van AI'WEL. 1964). Other a uthors (e.g,
HARDUNG, 1949; CASSIE, 1954; VIS HER. 1969) use a
graphical proecd ure based upon t he plot of cumula-
tive percentage frequency on normal probability
Mari ne, Eanll and Atmospheri c Scicnces. No rth Carolir_a
State Raleigh, NC 27514 U,S.A.
.. Servios Geolgicos dc Port uga l, R. Academia das Ci ncias.
19_2. 1200 Li sboa. Portugal.
paper. Tn 8llch a pIo I a gaussian populatioll pIaIs as
a straight linc. Ir several modes exisl lhe individual
componcnts munifes! themsc]vcs by inflections in
lhe rcsulti ng gra ph. Both af lhese approachcs suffcr
fram a common problem: whcn two component
curves ovc rlap to :'I signifir.:'In t extent the pCflks in
lhe compositc curve are displaccd with rcspcct to
lhe original peak positions. Analog computers, sueh
as lhe Dupont 310 Curve Resolver, have beco
designed to ovcrcome this prob1em (M U LLER, 1966),
and applicd to l he analysis of size distributiOl1s
(OSER. 1972; Va n ANDEL. 1973; D AUPlI IN, 1980).
Thc major problem with this techniquc is l hat iI is
very t ime consumi ng. l n addition, fcw insl rumcnts
of t his ki nd are still a vai la blc.
Another approach 10 the decomposi ti on of a
multi modal distribution int o its component modcs
is via numcrical sol ut ion (see CLARK, 1976, for a
brief review), This approach has beeome most attrac-
tive si nce t he advent of the digital computer. Never-
t heless, it has not been widely employed in lhe con-
text of sedimentological studi es. The purpose of this
paper is to prescnt a compuler program (GDC,
writ ten in FORTRAN-77) that decomposes a poly-
modal distribution curve into a user-specified nurn-
bcr of compori ent gaussian curves , Application of
t he program is ill ustrated using grain-size data
obtai ned by the Geological Survey of Portugal
("'Servios Geolgicos de Portugal") ,
ln t his discussion it wi ll be eonve nient to para-
meterize a gaussia n curve y :: g(x) in the following
where l he constants ym, xm and a have sim pie
graphical interpretat ions. The f unct ion g(x) is
graphed in figure I, and Jeads to the familiar bell-
-shaped curve centered at x :: xm, with peak height
y ::: ym, and g(xm l o)::: ...L ym = 0,61 ym. The
area A under lhe curve is: Vc
A :: 1: g(x)dx = ..,j2;;- a ym (2)
Note that aJ1 propert ies of t he gaussian curve
y :: g(x) are fixed by specification of the three
parameters xm, ym and o.
Suppose lhat ncurv dist inct ga ussian curves ha ve
been superposed to const ruct the multimodal curve
y :: M(x), ie.
M(x) = l gix) (3)
j : I, ncurv
wherc each gj(x) is completely described by its
associated parameters xmj' ymj and 0j-
Suppose we are give n ndata measurements
whic h sample the mul t imodal
Xi, Yi
1 :c I, ndata
curve M(x). These data may contain some noise
and so:
, m
....!.... ym
M(xi) = Yi i = I,2, ... ndata
Fi g. I - Paramet erization of a gaussian (norm31) curve 3S used in
this p3pcr.
where lhe approximatcl y equal sigo woul d be ao
cqual sign in l he evcot tha t there was no noise in
t he data. Suppose further lhan nda ta > ncurv. The
problem addressed in this section is:
J xi, Yil
1 i = I. ndata
Fi nd
For the purposes or t he rollowing discussion lei
us assume t hat we know t he number or componem
curves (i.e. ncurv is known). 1 n practi ce we may
not , but we can assume several va lues and adopt
the value lhal provides the best fit belween model
and data.
Soluti on of the problem (4) involvcs specifica-
ti oo ar estimatcd parameler va lues (x .... mj, ymj,
fo r ea ch model componenl curve in order
Ihal we can conSlrucl lhe model compos ite curve:
M(x) gj(x) (5)
j = I, llCurv
For each Xi in lhe observed data sei we can
model lhe associaled response variabJc Yi with Yi
whe re:
Yi = M(Xi)
The standard devi ation dala {xi. Yi }
and model compositc curve M(x) is CSlimaled
[1 (Yi - Yi) 2] / (ndata - 3 ncurv) (7)
1 = 1, ndaw.
Wc seek a soluli on which This is a
standa rd problem in non-linear leasl squares (LEVEN-
1972). We solve lhis prob1em using lhe IMSL imple-
mentation of the Levenberg-Marquardt algorithm.
This FORTRAN subrouti ne ZXSSQ is described in
Chapler Z of lMS L Documenlalion. Lei us refor-
mulale our problem slighlly so lhal our problem
stalement matches Ihat is lhe IMSL documenla-
tion. The requi red solution veclor Z is simpl y the
mx 1 vector:
- xm,
Nolc thal m = 3 ncurv.
We wish 10 find a solut ion Z whi ch mini mizes
l he ndala residua is:
fj(Z) = Yi - M(Z, Xi)
i = I, 2, ... Ildata
in lhe sellse Ihal
}; rr is minimizcd.
i = I. ndata
Note Ihat lhe residuais j fi}' and lhe sum, above,
are non-linear fllllctions of\he sol Uli on vcclor Z.
l n this secl ion we dcscribe lhe FORTRAN-77
program GDC (Qaussian-.Qc-omposilion) used to
solve problem (4). The core of lhe calculalion is
car ri cd oul by I MS L FORTR AN subroul ine
ZXSSQ. We rerer lhe reader lo lhe IMSL documen-
tati on on thi s subroutine.
Three qua nlit ies t hat might oft en require adjus-
till g are seI in parameter slatement s near lhe begin-
ning of lhe progra mo Parameler Tnxnpts sets lhe
maximum number of (x, y) pairs Iha l can be used
10 define lhe mll ltimoda l curve. Para meter mxncurv
seis lhe maximum number of component curves
t hat the user may spccify. Adjusting ei lher of these
parameters affecls the amount of storage used by
lhe programo Para meter maxfn is provided to limit lhe
number of iterations in the evenl Ihal conve rgence
fail s, and Ihereby prevent an infinile loop. This
parameler musl be inc reased ir lhe size of l he pro-
ble m lo be lackled is grcatly increased. Maxfn spe-
cifies l he maximum number of funcli oll evaluations
(i.e. calls to sllbroutine COMPRES).
The user nced decide how many componenl
curves he wishes to use in lhe decomposition, and
provi de ao estimate a f lhe parameters (xm, ym, 0")
for each componeot curve. The program prompts
l he user for his est imates of (xm, ym, a) for lhe first
and successive componcnt curves. Each time lhe user
enlers a sei af parameters (xmj , ymj, ai ) he is
prompled for lhe nexl seI. lf he has enlered estima-
tes fOf lhe desired number a f component curves,
lhe next lime he is prompted for (xmi, ymj, ai) he
enters ao end-of-fil e, and Ihus leavcs l he estimate
cnt ry loop starting ai label 5. The manner in which
one issues ao end-of-file is machine dependent. 00
lhe VAX- Il compute r l he user enters a cont ral-z.
00 ao IBM370 he enters a null Ijne (i.e. hits return
withoul eotering any ot her characlers). The pro-
gram stores lhe es ti males ~ x m i ymi, ai } for i =
1,2 ... . , ncurv in t he one-dimensional array p. The
elemenls of pare ordered thus (xm
, yml' a i_ xm

, a2_ xm
, ... xmncll rV' ymncurY' allcu rJ. Thus lhe
number of paramelers la be estimaled by ZXSSQ is
j usl npar m = 3 ncurv.
Nexl lhe program reads in, and counlS, lhe (x,
y) pairs which sam pIe, ar define, lhe multimodal
curve to be decampased. The data arc rcad on logi-
cal un i! number I from ao existing file. Variable
ndata is set to the number of (x, y) pairs entered.
The program checks 10 see if odala > oparm.
The routine ZXSSQ ruos io a variety of modes
aod provides vari ous user selectable oplioos. With
lhe exception of para meter maxfn these aplions are
selected in lhe assignment statemeot preceding the
call to ZXSSQ. Variables nsig, eps a nd delta pro-
vide conve rgence cri te ri a. ln our impleme ntation
lhe first convergence crilerioo controlled by varia-
ble osig is dominant. Convergence is satisfied if 0 0
two successive iterations lhe parameler estimales
agree, component by componenl to nsig digits.
Variable ipt selccts one of three algorithms lhat
ZXSSQ may utilize. We set iopt to I so Ihat
ZXSSQ uses a slricI descen! algoril hm.
The firsl argument in the calli ng lisl of ZXSSQ
names t he applicalion-specific subroutine which
ZXSSQ calls to compute the residual vector asso-
ciated with lhe latest parameter estimales. This rou-
line COMPRES in turn caUs subrOUl ine GAUSS
which evaluates a component gaussian curve.
ln lhe maio roulioe, afler lhe caU t o ZXSSQ lhe
program checks t hal convergeoce has occurred. If i i
has, lhen lhe soluli on is described. The curve para-
meters (xmi, ymi, ai) , i = I, ncurv replace lhe initial
Gl1Iin-si ze analY5is of lhe saoo hactioll from sample 168
-1 .000 0.046
-0.900 0. 292
0.800 0.682
-0.700 1.223
0.600 1.925
- 0.500 2.910
- 0.400 4.3 70
- O.lOO 5.683
- 0.200 6. 13 1
- 0. 100 5.989
0.000 5.905
0.100 6.070
0.200 6.061
0.300 5.427
0.400 4.385
0.500 3.742
0.700 3. 834
0.800 3.375
0.900 2.6 17
1.000 2. 158
1. 100 2. 170
1.200 2.275
1.300 2.192
1.400 2."'"
I. SOO 1.768
1.600 1. 432
1.700 1.160
1.800 1.176
1.900 1.384
2.000 1.474
2. 100 1.390
2.200 1.213
2.300 0.923
2.400 0.553
2.500 0.346
2.600 0.39J
2.700 0.475
2.800 0.406
2.900 0.254
3.000 0. 144
3. 100 0. 103
3.200 0.085
3,300 0.065
3.400 O. OSI
3.500 0.036
3.000 0.01 8
3.700 0.003
3.800 0.004
3.900 0.004
4.000 0.000
eSlimales in veclor p. Our program prompts lhe
user for optional graphical output. The graphics
subroutines we use are system dependant <Jnd are
not given. They call subroutine GAUSS to cvaluate
cach component gaussian curve in lhe range of inle-
rest, the componenl curves are then summcd to
derive the model composite curve, and the original
data point s are plotted so lhat they can be compa-
red with lhe composi te curve. Wc find graphical
examination to be lhe most rapid means lO assess
the solution.
ln this sect ion we ilIustrate the use of GDC on
t he dala set in Table I. Readers wishing lo imple-
ment GDC on their systems might use this data as a
test case. The data consists of 51 (x, y) pairs, repre-
senting results of sand grain size anal ysis of a
scdiment core samplc. Each y value is lhe percen-
tage frequency of grains with diameters in t he inter-
vai with mid-pOint value x. The grain sil.t: is measu-
rcd using lhe ~ scaJe. Decause l he ~ scaJe is Jogari-
thmi c we can assume lhal lhe individual modes
composing lhe frequency curve are gaussiano Sup-
pose thal we have inspected lhe data (Table I)
visually and wish to decompose lhe frequency curve
inlo six gaussian componenls. Then we muSl
estimate the midpoint, height and width (xm, ym, o)
for each component, and provide these estimales to
The dialogue produced by interacli ve execution
of program GDC is shown in figu re 2. The first !ine
represents a system dependant command which acti-
vales program GDC and instructs it to use lhe data
set C168, shown in Table I. The progra m res ponds
by asking for para meter estimates for the first com-
ponent curve. The uscr supplies hi s estimates, and
the program asks for the second set of parameter
est imates, and so on. Since the user whishes to
decompose lhe data into six gaussian curves, when
lhe program asks for lhe estimated parameters of
lhe seventh component curve he cnters an cnd-of-
-fil e character, in lhis case a conlrol-Z. The pro-
gram lhen informs lhe user Ihat iI is about to call
subroutine ZXSSQ and find six gaussian curves to
describe the 5 I (x, y) pairs. When ZXSSQ has sol-
vcd lhe nonlinear Icasl squares problem lhe pro-
gram oulpUlS the number of ite rations required by
ZXSSQ to rcach convergence. The progra m lhen
specifies lhe rOOI mcan square deviation between
composite curve and data and describes l he six
gaussian curves used to construct lhe composite
curve. Besides specifying xm, ym and (1 for each
component curve, GDC also outputs lhe arca under
eaeh components curve described as a pereenlage of
lhe area under l he composite curve (that is, lhe sum
of the areas benealh each component curve) . The
program l hen asks if lhe solulions are to be ploued.
ln our implemenlalion IWO forma ts are available. If
these qucslions are answered in the affirmative, two
subroutines PGDC and PGDC2 called to plot lhe
Solulions. Our subroutines PGDC and PGDC2 use
a graphical subrout ine package which is not widely
available and whose implemenlation is system depen-
dent. Therefore PGDC and PGDC2 are not given
in lhe Appendi x, but must be provided by lhe rea-
der. Ali necessary informalioo is Slored io lhe one-
-d imensional array p. Any reader who has acess to
lhe NCAR graphics package may write to the au-
t hors for a copy of our versions of PG De and
lII, ussi .. n curve Enter 1<.,,,, ..
- .2

u .... . ;l n c urve 2 Enter K .. ... . 'o,
. "
, .
s;l u5si .. n curve J E"te'r )C .. ..... 'o,
J. 1
!llussi .. n cur ve

K" . "'.
, . . ,
!l. ussi .. n curve 5 Enter
"' ...... 'o,
,. 1
... us siln c urve

Enter )C II ..... 'o,
,. ,
. "
SIUtiSil" cur ve
rnter )( ....... 'o,
enler i n. : 1<5ti U; ncurv. 6 nd. t
no . of iter .. tions 30.
s t a nd .. rd It rrO r on fil (r1l5 dey") ,,


-0.175 14
0. 25665
1. 26:17 8
2 , 06708
2. 752 19

3 .374 79
0,'1 1801
ror auto-5c. led ~ o t Itn ter 1

si . ....
0 .1551 2
0.18 459
0 :23287
ror .. t .nd. r d windowed ~ o t e nte r 1
'1s ....
51 ....
s l
ti l ....
5 i
X.re ..
"3 . 060
15. 659
1.8.1 9
Fig. 2 - Thc dialogue bct ween lhe useI' and program GDC during
decompositioll or dala sei CI68. Thc fil'sl li n( . Iyped by
the user, acl ival ed a command proccdul'e, which raR pro-
gmm GDC and dcfined file CI6iI as lhe input da la. After
emering ;n;l;al cstimates of cUIVe pararnelers for si i\ com
penem cur'"cs. thc useI' enlcre<! a COllt rolZ (cnd-oH i lc)
a nd illdicatcd thal only s; x componc lll CUf\'(S W(.C lo be
The solution is graphed in figure 3, where data,
component and composite curves are combined.
The agreement between l he data a nd l he composite
curve is very good except for x values in lhe range
3. 1-3.6. The user may choose to fUR G De again
and include a seventh compORent curve to relieve
this problcm. By inspecting lhe disparity between
composite curve and data it would be possible to
provide a reasonabl y good estimale of lhe parame-
ters for this new compORent curve. For lhe purpo-
ses af our research lhe discrepancy between campo-
site curve and data did not warrant lhe introduc-
tion of an additional component curve. The reader
should appreciate l hat visual inspeclion of l he com-
ponent curve together with lhe Taw data is lhe best
basis for assess ing a given solution, and for consi-
dering how it might be improved by changi ng lhe
number of component curves employed.
Our approach t o decomposing a multimodal
curve is as follows. First we inspecl the curve
visually and eSlimate l he minimum numher of
modes it contains. We then attempt a decomposi-
tion using that mini mum number of modes. We
examine the results of t hat decomposition in terms
of both lhe rOOI mean square (rms) deviation and
graphical output, and decide if increasing the num-
ber of modes may improve the solut ion. If we
decide to add another componcnt curve wc use lhe
results from the first decomposition to guide our
initial para meter estimalCS for the nexl decomposi-
tion. By increasing lhe number of component curve
we always attain a smaJler rms deviation. However
because introduci ng ao additional component curve
increases by 3 the number of degrees of freedom
avai lable 10 our model (lhe composite curve), tbjs
decrease in the rms deviation may not be slati sti-
cally significanl. Increasing l he number of compo-
nent curves always increases the instability of the
soluti on. Thus, in selecting the preferred number of
componcnt curves to use in a decomposition, lhe
analyst is engaged in a t rade-off between resolution
and reliability. Unless l he exact ratio of signal to
noise is known a priori (a sit uation Ihat almost
never occurs in practice) the optimum t rade-off
cannol be delermined wilh certai nt y. lt is important
to realize Ihat though the use of trade-off curves
(JACKSON. 1972) and ANQVA can hel p us assess
va ri ous candidate Solulions, in practice there is no
"correct" solution to problems of this kind.
We believe Ihat the rela tive merits of vari ous
candidate solutions are best assessed by visual ins-
peetion of data and eomposite curves. A composite
curve is acceplable t o t he extent that l he discre-
pancy belween data and lhe curve is acceptable.
D ... t ... . I'IOOEl AMO GOC
' .0
0 .0
0. 0
0. 0
, . 0
. . . ....J . o

Fig. 3 - Decomposi!ion or data se! CI68 (sc:e fi,. S and 6a. sam-
pie 168). The data points (. ), the eomposite curve cons-
l ruclcd to Ipproximatc thcm and lhe $;X eomponcnt cur-
ves usai 10 C0fl51ruCI the composite curve Irc represented.
As lhe numbcrs of modes in a distribution curve
increases, and particularly as the degree of overlap
between modes increases, lhe process of decomposi-
tion becomes less slablc, and lhe number of"equall y
good" alternative decompositions increases. ln ali
but extreme cases however the results of decompo-
sition are stiIJ useful. To illustrate this point we
consider the results of an experimenl in which
a single distribution curve (sand fraction from sam-
pIe 164 in fig. 5) was decomposed independently by
lwO analysts. One analyst used program ODC and
the other used lhe Duponl 310 Curve Resolver
(CR). The results are shown in figure 4. The CR
analyst chose to decompose lhe curve into eight
.. ..
" -
.. -
i ....
K ..
., - ,, -
.. -
_1 .0 ,-.
,. ..


S C A!,f
Fig. 4 _ Dccomposi t ion of data seI CI64 by two disl incl analyslS. (a) de<;:ompositi on imo si", compoRcnls using Lhe program GDe.
(b) decomposit ion inlo tighl componcnts Llsing a n al\3Jog compute. , lhe DuPo1l1 310 Curve Resolver (CR).
ga ussian modes. The GDC analysI chase to use
only six companeot curves. The former inlcrprcla-
lioo has slightly bctter resolUlion aI lhe COSI af
greater instability. AI what poiol lhe analyst stops
adding new componenl curves reOcels his belief in
lhe li kely signal-to-noisc levei. and in lhe extent to
wh.i ch lhe use af gaussian componeot curves is ren-
dered inappropriate by lhe existence af skcw Dr
kunosis in lhe actual subpopulation, ele. As a
result , in some cases, and independently of whether
dccomposit ion is performed numcrically or manual-
Iy, different analysts wj[ l produce substantiall y dif-
ferent results, as in figure 4. Tablc II shows the
peak posit ions delermi ned by the two analyses
(GDC and CR), and indicates lheir order in terms
of peak height. 80th analysts agree on lhe peak
position of t he largesl Ihrcc modes. Both recognizc
the ex..istence of a 4
mode of significant height
centered near bul t here is a significant disere-
pancy in assigncd peak position. Both agrce Ihal
lhe fth highcst mode is localed near 0.2 but
analyst GDC only invokcs one more mode, whereas
analyst CR invokes threc more. The peak heights
or areas assigned t o t he principal modes by lhe two
analysts have a relative variation which is greatcr
lhan is true of assigned peak position.
This example underlines lhe need to interpret
gaussian decomposili ons with a certain amounl of
cautioo. BUI even in this fairJy sevcre case, wherc
several modes overlap to a significant eXlenl, we sec
that decomposition is still usefull charaClcri ng the
maj or modes.
Pea k poositions assigncd 10 componenl modes(fig. 4a atld 4b)
by indepcndenl analyslS. Thc numbcr in indicales
rdatiV<' height or each mode. St:C tex! for details.
0.42 (6)
- 0.2 1 (5) -0. 19 (5)
0.28 (7)
1.00 (4) 0.83 (4)
1.45 (3) 1.48 (3)
2.02 ( I) 2.08 (1)
2.77 (2) 2.10(2)
3.77 (6) 3.16 (8)
Wc have llsed the program ODe to analyze
grain size distribution af the sandy fraction af bot-
tom sediment samples [rom the continental shelf of
Northern Portugal (fig. 5). Tn general, the sediment
in this area can be divided into four types of depo-
sits (DIAS & NrTTRouER, 1983): (a) nearshore depo-
sits 30 fi watcr dcpth) - mainly fine quartzic
sands, largely unimodal, and c1assified as modem;
(h) midd-shelf deposits (30 rn-8D m) - coarsc, poly-
modal quartz sands with graveI, classified as essen-
tially aneient (rcJict); (c) outcr shelf deposits (80 m-
150 m) - polymodal carbonate - rich sands intcr-
preted as a mixture af modem and relict deposits;
(d) shelf break deposits (> 150 m) - very fine, well
sorted sands. We consider here sam pies fro m two
transects (fig. 5): t ransect A is a cross-shelf transect
(samplcs 164, 165, 167- 174) and transect B is a mid-
-she1f transect (sam pies 171, 175, 180, 181, 185,
All samples were obtained with a grab sampler.
The sand fract ion, which represents over 90% of the
original sediment, was isolated by wet-sieving at 4 j)
(to remove silt and day) and by dry-sieving at 1 (to
remove gravei).
Textural analysis of the sand fraction was per-
formed on the SGP-BALSED settling tube (DIAS &
MONTEIRO. 1979). Settling tube techniques are pre-
Fig. 5 - Location of hottom sediment sam pies discussed in lhe
tex\. Transect A is across the shclf, whilc lfansect B run.1
a!ong t he mid-shelf. Bathymetry in meter.;.
ferred to sieving techniques because: (a) they allow
rapid and precise processing of samples; (b) they
need only a few grams of sediment; (c) they yield
size distributions that are much closer to conti-
nuous than those yielded by sievi ng; (d) they
approximate the hydrodynamic processes of sedi-
ment transport and deposition (e.g. REED et ai.,
1975; TAIRA & SCHOLLE. 1979). The distribution
curves used in this study have a spacing of 0.1.
Ali distribution curves were decomposed using
GDC in arder to examine their modal structure.
The distribution curve of figure 3 (sample 168,
fig. 6) is a typical resulto The results of the modal
analyses are summarized, in graphical fo rm, in
figures 6a (transect A) and 6b (transect B).
Transect A, the cross shelf transect, consists of
10 samples obtained from water depths ranging
fram la m to 165 m. The maio conclusions to be
extracted of lhe analysis of these samples (fig. 6a),
I) All samples are polymodal, though in some
cases a single mode is dominant in terms of volume;
2) Individual modes usuaHy persist for many
kilometers and cao be correlated from sample to
sample. Although t he relative proportion of a cons-
titueot mode may change from site to site, tts peak
positioo (mean grain size) is Iess variable.
3) Modes A, B and C (fig. 6a) seem to be
associated with mid-shelf relict deposits. Modes D
and E seem ubiquitous. Mode F is specific to
outer shelf deposits.
4) Modes of sample 174, collected at water
depth of 10 m, seem anomalous in relation to the
other samples, perhaps because of the unique cha-
racter of nearshore dispersai processes.
Coarser modes (A, B and C), we l1 represe nted in
the mid-shelf deposits, may be composed of grains
that are too large to suffer appreciable transport
under present conditions of dispersion. This may
explain their persistence and relati ve proportions,
as well as their almost complete abseoce in shal-
lower and deeper water. This view is in accord with
the relict origin for these deposits proposed by J. A.
DIAS & C. NnTROUER (1983). Coarser modes appea-
ring io water decper thao 85 m cao bc interpret ed
as residual modes. J. A. DIAS & C. NITTRQUER
(1983) consider outer-shelf deposits to be a mixture
of modero and relict.
Transect B is a north-south transect along the
mid-shelf (fig. 5). Textural analyses of the samples
,,------------------.----, coHected in this transect are summarized in figure
6b. The fi ndings are cansistent wit h the results fro m
tra nseet A. Relict modes A, B and C are laterally
persistent. The sarne is t rue of the more ubiquitous
modes D and E. Absence of mode F is consistent
with the previous suggestion that it is decp water
'" (20m)
B C o
, ,
These results and interpretations must be viewed
with care, because sediments in this area have a
carbonate fraction which may account for betwecn
2% and 86% of the total sand fraction. ln the case
af nearshore and mid-shelf deposits this percentage



; ,

ili ii

12 12


12 12
12 12

,., 12 iili






,. ,. ,.
6 _ Summary (lf modal decomposit ions for lhe of t ransects A and B (fig. 5). Each sample is
decomposed joIo a variable !lumbcr of rondes. Each mnde is codcd using lhe "invcrted I ' shaped
symboL Thc horiwntal line cncode:; lhe valuc of 0, and hcoce lhe width or lhe model. The vert ical
line cnclodcs lhe arca under lhe gaus:;ia n curve. The :;ca les are shown in lhe inset. Figure 6a show,
samples from transect A, <Ind figure tib lhe samplcs of (r"OSCel fi. Classe:; of rondes A- F are di scusscd
in lhe lext. Tlle dashed zonc represcnts lhe I a zonc associat ed with lhe rncrnbcr mndes
is small, and lhe presence of carbonates is not a pro-
bl em; lhe sarne is no! t rue af lhe deeper dcposits.
Thc presence of carbonate part iclcs may be pro-
blematic in sedimentological interpretat ions becau-
se wc do no! know whet her a shell ar shell fragmenl
has beco tra nsported and deposited with olher par-
l icles. Carbonale fragme nls af non-detri tal ori gin
might appear as a nomalous mades, fOf instance,
either distinct from modcs associated wit h dispersaI
patterns or wlth lhe peak posit iotl af l hese rnodes
changed. One solu tion to this problem is to make
separa te modal dccompositions for l he ca rbonate
and non-carhonatc sand fractions. This is a straight
forward extension of lhe work already performcd.
After ma.king a textural a nalysis of lhe laIa I sand
fraet ion, lhe carbonate can bc removed byehemical
solut ion, a nd lhe non-carbonate sand can again be
subjecI t o text ural a nalysis. By sublracting lhe non-
-carbonale dislribution curve from the tOlal sand
dist ribulion curve wc could infer the dis lributi on
curve associated with lhe carbona te sands. All t hree
dist ri bulions could be analysed usi ng GDC. Careful
analysis of ali Ihrec curves would gcnerate more
infonnation and probably would lead to an impro-
ved understa nding of textural, composit ional and
dispersai palterns.
The FOI{ T RAN-77 program GDC decomposes
a mult i moda! curve int o a user-spccificd number of
gaussian curves. The major adva nt agcs of lhi s pro-
gra m over lhe use of an analog computer are ils
speed and availabi li ty. Ahhough wc have a ppli ed
l he progra m la texlural anal ysis of sediments. lhe
program i(self is nOI orienlcd lowards any spcciric
applica tion, and might be uscd as effectively by a
spectroscOpisl, for example. Thc modula r strucl ure
of the program will facil itate its modification to
deal with differe nl component curve lypes (c.g. a
Lorentzian curve) ar l he incorporation of such
para melers as skewness or kurl osis.
The program can be modified for use with a
FORTRAN-IV compi lcr. Wc favor lhe use of
FORTRAN-77 bccausc it conla ins many of t he
struct ured programmi ng fealures Ihal have led 10
lhe popula rity of languages such as PASCAL.
FORTRAN-77 compilers (and supersels such as
VAX- FORTRAN) have becomc quile cornmon in
recent ycars.
Thi s research was initiated during a visil by
1.M.A. Dias la Norlh Carolina Slatc Universily.
The visil was supported by lhe USAID program
Ihrough lhe U.S.A. Nalional Academy of Sciences,
a nd by J NICT of Port ugal under conlraCI NEB-
-OOO I-C-oO-20l 8-00. Additional supporl was provi-
ded by lhe Geological Survey of Port ugal (Servios
Geolgicos de Portugal).
We Iha nk J. Paul Dauphi n (Gradualc School of
Occa nography, University of Rhodc Islund) fo r his
help in decomposing sample curvc 164 on lhe
Dupont 310 Curve Resolver. C. Nillrouer, M. Kim-
berley a nd L. Gil bert provided uscful rcviews of the
manuscript. This is cont ribulion number 83-14 of
lhe Depart menl of Marine, Earth and At mos pheric
Seicnces, NCSU, and re por! 2/ 83 of t he Marine
Geology Division of "Servios Geolgicos de Por-
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lhe Levenbc:rg-fo,l arquardl an Gauss algorithms for non-
-linea r Icast squarc-s approxi mat ions. NUI>I/'fi.fchl.' Malhe-
mil/iii. I II: 289-297.
C"'SSIf.. M. N. ( 1954) _ Some lISCS of probabi lit)' paper in l he analy-
sis or si7e frequcZICy lourn. Au.maUall Mar.
and Fre'h .....mn Ruearch, 5: 513-522.
CLARK. M"LCOM W. ( 1976) - Some Methods ror Statistical Analy-
sis (lf Mll ltimoda[ Distribll li ons a nd t heir Application lo
Grain-si7.e Dala. Malhematica/ Geo/08Y. 11( 3):
CURRAY. JOSEPH R ( 1960) Sedimenls and of Holocen<:
Continenl al sheJf, Nonhwesl Gu lf af
Mexico. ,,, .. "Rec:nt Sediment s Northwesl Gul f of
Mellico. F. P. Shepard. F. R. Ph[eger & T. H. Van
Andei. (Ed.) Tulsa. Okla . A.A.P.G .. pp. 221-266.
DAUPIlI'i . J . I' AUI ( 1980) - Si1.e or chcmieally ell lrac-
ted quart1. usc:d 10 harnlerize fine-graincd sediments.
),>IIm. Sei/imo Pelrolo8Y. 50( 1): 205-2 14.
DtAs. J M. A. &: MONTFIRO. J . H. C. ( 1979) - A bala na de
sedimentao dos S.G. P. - Construo. calibrao. lcoria
do mtodo e funcionamento. Ue/o Dil'. Gco/. Marinha.
Servo Geol. Por tugal, Lisboa, 1/19: 46 p.
DJ AS. J . M. A. & NITI"ROUE(!.. C. A. ( 1983) - Continenta l
scdiments of Norlhern Portuga l. COlllinenro/ shell
ReSl!tlrch.3(2): [ 47-165
HARllU'iG. J. P. (1949) The use or probabilily paper for gmphical
analysis of po[ymoda[ f",que tlcy d islri butions.
Riol. As.wc. Unled Kingdum Joum., 211; 141- 151
Ii ARRIS. S. A. - Prooobi li lY curves and lhe rccognilion of
adjuslmcnt 10 cpositional environmcnt . l o"",. Sedo Pelro-
101;)', 18: 151- 163.
IMSL (1982) The IMSllibrary Rdcrence Ma nual. Tlle IMS l
Library is an ...... tensivc colleelion or malhemalica l and
statislical sllbroutincs wriuen in Fortran. [\ is li commer-
cial product of I MSl. Inc. or Houslon.
)ALKSO ... o O. (1972) Interpretation of inaccuratc. in,uflicient
and ineonsistent data. (j.,ophys, J. ROI". Astron. Soe .. 28:
97- 109
LH'E"eO((;. K, (1944) - A melhod foI' the solut ion of cenain non-
Iinear problell1' in Icast square, _ Qual"l. Apl''- . .\Ialh .. 2:
164- 168.
MI\II.QUARDT, D. W. (1963) - An algorithm for least-,quurcs esti -
mation of non-linear paramctcrs,.I. Siam, 1I(2)
MI:LLER. R. H. (1966) - Spt:cializcd J [lalog computcr I'esolves
overlapping peab, Anal, Ch"miSlry, 38: 121A- 123A
OSER, KOIll, 1I.1 K. (1972) - of NOl1hwest
Pacific Pdagic 'iCdiments. Juum, of Sedo Pelru/ogy. 42(l};
RHl). W. L, LEHVER. R. & MOtR. G. J. (1975) Depositional
envi ronmcnt interpretation [mm ,ctt ling-velocity (psi) dis-
tributi ons. (je%gical Soeii"ly oJ Americo Bull<"lin. 86:
1321 - 1328.
ROGEII.S, J. J. (1959) - Delection of lognofmul ,iLC disnibutio!1 in
clastic sedimcnt>. .Ioum. Sedo ferrolagl', 29: 402-407
SPENCEII.. D, W. (1963) - The imerprctation of grain-si ze distribu-
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33: 180-1'iO
T ,\IRA. A. & SOIOU,r . P. 1\. (I 979) Discrimination 01' dcpositio-
nal environment using settling tu be dal a: .Ioum. Sedo
Perrolog)', 49: 787-800.
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VA:-.' T. H. (1<)64) - RcccllI marine sediments of Gulf of
Ca lifomia. 111: Marinc Gcology of lhe Gulf of California,
A Symposium. T. ti, Van Andei & G. G. Shor. Jr, (Ed l.
Tulsa, Okla .. A.A.P.G. Buli.: 216-310.
( 1973) - Texture and disper>al o]' scdimenls in thc
Panama Basin: .I'mm. (jeology. 81 : 434457
G. S. {I91i9} - Grain ,ize distribution, and dcpo,itional
proce'scs . .Ioum, Sed. I ' elrology. 39: I074- II6.
"Oe to" ' ""'
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