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Comunicaes dos

Comun. Sem Geol. Portugal, 1986. t. 72. fase. 1/2 . pp. 33-44.
Se rv ios Geo lg ic os
d e Po rtuga l

Gaussian Decomposition of a Multimodal Curve

alld its Application to Sedimentology


Key word.,; Gaw;sian decomposition; sed ime ntology; grainsiLc analysis: multimooal distributions: FORTRA N 77.
AbslraCI: This papcr prcse nts a computer program. written in FORTRAN 77. which will decompose a multimodal 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 application, of this progra m to botlom sediments
of the!'.; onh Portugal Shelf are presented.
Pala \'ra.N'have: Decompo,io gaussiana; sedimentologia; anilisc granulomtrica; distribuies multimodai,; FORTRA N 77.
Resumo: Aprescmase um programa escrito cm FO RTRAN 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 .outros mtodo, de
decomposio de curvas nas suas componentes gaussianas. Este programa tcm sido uu hzado na anlise de curvas de distnbuio granulom-
\fica de sedimentos. sendo apresentados resultados oblidos com a aplicao deste m61UlJu a s~di IJL~ 1J 1(JS Ho consolidados da plataforma
continental portuguesa setentrional.

INTRODUCTION tain muc h informa tion rega rd ing sed iment disper-
saI. Va n ANDE L (1 964) used t his a pproach to des-
It is widely acknowledged that t he dist ri buti on cribe ma rinc sed iment s of inter med iate depth, and
of grain size in a sed ime nt that is fully adjusted to late r lo interpret size dist ribution in silts from lhe
it s physical environme nt is a pp roxi mately lognor- P a nama Bas in sedi me nts (Van A NDEL. J973) .
mal (ROGERS. 195 9; S PENCER, 1963 ; TANNER. 1964). R. O SER ( 1972) and J, DAUPl-IlN (1 980) decomp osed
Ir pa rtic\e size in such a sedi ment is descri bed using size dist ributi on cu rves associaled with pelagic
a logarithmie seale (such as t he p seale) t hen t he sedimen ts. and showed Ihal t he individ ual modes
distribul ion is normal (or ga ussian). More com- co uld be interpreted in terms of composit ion. d is-
monlya sed imen t is ro und to contain two or mo re persai and provenance.
normal subpopulations, and lhe di st ributi on curve D ecompositi on of a p olymodal curve into its
is said to be po lymodal or multi moda l (CURRA Y. constit uent mod es has been approached in a variety
1960; T ANNER, 1964; Van A NDEL, 1964; VISHER, of ways. Peak posit ions ca n be esti ma ted by visua l
1969; O SER, 1972; D AUPHI N. 1980). A polymodal inspect ion or the po lymodal dist ri bution c urve (CUR.
distribution ca nnot be d escri bed in term s or the RAY. 1960; Va n AI'WEL. 1964). Other a utho rs (e.g,
pa rametcrs or a si ngle normal populat ion, but ins- H ARDU NG, 1949; CASS IE, 1954; VIS HER. 1969) use a
tead should be resolved into its several nor mal graphical proecd ure based upo n t he plot of cumula-
compone nls. each or which may t hen be deseribed tive percentage freq uency on normal proba bility
in the con ventional ma nner (H AR RI S, J958; C UR
RAY, 1960; O SER. J972; DA UP HIN. 1980), Each no r- Marine, Eanll and Atmospheric Scicnces. No rth Carolir_a
State Univef~ity. Raleigh, NC 275 14 U,S.A.
mal su bp op ula lion is called a mod e. J . CURRAY .. Servios Geolgicos dc Portuga l, R. Academia das Ci ncias.
( 1960) poinled o ut th at the ind ividual mod es con- 19_2. 1200 Lisboa. Portugal.

paper. Tn 8llch a pIo I a gaussian populatioll pIaIs as

a straight linc. Ir seve ral modes exisl lhe individual
A :1: g(x)dx = ..,j2;;- a ym (2)
componcnts munifes! themsc]vcs by inflections in
Note that aJ1 p ro pert ies of t he gaussian curve
lhe rcsulti ng gra ph. Both af lhese approachcs suffcr
y :: g(x) are fixed by specification of the three
fram a comm on pro blem: whcn two component
parameters xm, ym a nd o .
curves ovc rlap to :'I signifir.:'In t exten t the p Cflks in
Suppose lhat ncurv dist inct ga ussian curves ha ve
lh e compositc curve are displaccd with rcspcct to
been superposed to const ruct the multimodal curve
lh e original peak positions. Analog computers, sueh
y :: M(x), ie.
as lhe Dupont 310 Curve Resolver, have beco
designed to ovcrcome this prob1em (M ULLER, 1966), M(x) = l gix) (3)
and applicd to l he analysis of size distributiOl1s j : I, ncurv
(OSER. 1972; Va n AN DEL. 1973; D A UPlI IN, 1980). wherc each gj(x) is completely described by its
Thc major problem with this techniquc is l hat iI is associated pa rameters xmj' ymj and 0j-
very t ime consumi ng. l n addition, fc w inslrumcnts S uppose we are give n nda ta measureme nts
of t his ki nd are still a vai la blc. whic h sample the mult imodal
Another approach 10 the decompositi on of a
multi moda l distribution into its component modcs
1 f.
Xi, Yi
1 :c I, ndata
curve M(x). These data may contain some noise
is via numcrical sol ution (see CLARK, 1976, for a
and so :
brief review), T his approach has beeome most attrac-
tive si nce t he advent of the d igital compute r. Never-
M(xi) = Yi i = I,2, ... ndata
t heless, it has not been widely emp loyed in lhe con-
text of sedimentological studies. The purpose of this
paper is to prescnt a compuler progra m (G DC,
writ ten in FORTRAN-77) that decomposes a poly-
modal distribution curve into a user-specified nurn-
bcr of com pori ent gaussian curves , Application of
t he program is ill ustra ted using grain-size data
obtai ned by the Geological Survey of Portugal
("'Servios Geolgicos de Portugal") ,


OF A MULTlMODAL CURVE ....!.... ym

ln t his discussion it will be eonve nient to para-

meterize a gaussia n c urve y :: g(x) in the follow ing

(I) .m

Fig. I - Parameterizatio n of a gaussian (norm31) curve 3S used in

where l he constants ym, xm and a have sim pie this p3pcr.
graph ical in terpretat ions. Th e f unct io n g(x) is
graphed in figure I, and Jeads to the fa miliar bell-
-shaped cu rve 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

where lhe approximatcly eq ual sigo would be ao

xm ,
cqual sign in l he evc ot tha t there was no noise in
t he data. Suppose further lhan nda ta > nc urv. The
"" ym ,
prob lem addressed in this section is:
'4 - "'
Given Jxi, Yil
1 i = I. ndata

Fi nd
For the purposes o r t he rollowing d iscussion lei Nolc thal m = 3 ncurv.
us assume t hat we k now t he numbe r o r compo ne m We wish 10 find a solut ion Z whic h mini mizes
curves (i.e. ncu rv is known). 1n pra ctice we may l he ndala resid ua is:
not , but we can assume several va lues and ad opt
the value lhal provides the best fit belween model fj(Z) =Yi - M(Z , Xi) (9)
and data . i = I, 2, ... Ildata
So luti on of the problem (4) involvcs specifica- in lh e sellse Ih al
tio o ar estimatcd pa rameler va lues (x....mj, ymj, ~)
fo r ea ch model componen l curve ~( x). in orde r
Ihal we can conSlrucl lhe model compos ite curve: }; rr is minim izcd.
i = I. ndata
M(x) ~ ~ gj(x) (5) Note Ihat lhe residuais j fi}' and lhe su m, above,
j = I, llCurv a re non-linear fllllctions of\he sol Uli on vcclo r Z.
For each Xi in lhe o bse rved d a ta sei we can
mod el lhe associaled respo nse variabJc Yi with Yi
whe re:
Yi = M(Xi) (6)
l n this secl ion we dcscribe lhe FORTRAN-77
Th e standard deviation ~ etwcen dala {xi. Yi } program GDC (Qaussian-.Qc-o mp osilion) used to
and mod el com positc c urve M(x) is CSlimaled by~, solve problem (4). T he core o f lh e calculalion is
where car ricd oul by I M S L FORTR AN su bro ul ine
ZXSSQ. We rerer lhe reader lo lhe IM S L documen-
~:: [1 (Yi - Yi) 2] / (ndata - 3 ncurv) (7) tatio n on thi s subroutine.
1 = 1, ndaw. Three qua nlit ies t hat might oft en req uire adjus-
tillg are seI in parameter slatement s near lhe begin-
ning of lhe progra mo Para meler Tnxnpts sets lhe
max im um number of (x , y) pairs Iha l ca n be used
Wc seek a soluli on which minimizes~, This is a 10 defin e lhe mll ltimoda l curve. Para meter m x ncurv
standa rd problem in non-linear leasl squares (LEV EN- seis lhe ma ximum number of compo ne nt cu rves
BERG. 1944; MARQUARDT. 1963; B ROWN & DENN1S. t hat the user may s pccify. Adjusting ei lher of th ese
1972). We solve lhis prob1em using lhe IMSL imple- parameters affecls the amount of storage used by
mentation of th e Leve nberg-Marquardt algorithm. lhe programo Para meter maxfn is provided to limit lhe
This FORTRAN sub ro uti ne ZXS SQ is described in number of iterations in th e evenl Ihal co nve rgence
Chapler Z of lM S L Docu menlalion. Lei us refor- fail s, and Ihe re by prevent an infin ile loop. This
mulale our pro blem slighlly so lhal o ur pro ble m parameler mu sl be inc reased ir lhe size of l he pro-
s talement matc hes Ihat is lhe IM S L documenla- ble m lo be lackled is grcatly increased. Maxfn spe-
tion. The requi red so lution veclor Z is sim pl y the cifies l he maximum number of fun cli oll eva luations
mx 1 vector: (i.e. calls to sllbroutine COM PR ES).

The user nced decide how ma ny co mponenl TABLE I

curves he wishes to use in lhe decomposition, and Gl1Iin-size analY5is of lhe saoo h actioll from sample 168
provi de ao estimate a f lhe parameters (xm , ym, 0")
for each componeot curve . The program prompts
l he user fo r his estimates of (xm, ym, a) for lhe first
and successive compo ncnt curves. Each time lhe user
, %
enlers a sei a f pa rameters (xmj , ymj, ai ) he is -1 .000 0.046
prompled for lhe nex l seI. lf he has enlered estima- -0.900 0.292
tes fOf lhe d esired number a f compo nent curves, 0 .800 0.682
lhe next lime he is prompted for (xmi, ymj, ai) he -0.700 1.223
0.600 1.925
enters ao end-of-file, and Ihus leavcs l he estimate - 0 .500 2.910
cnt ry loop starting ai label 5. The manner in which - 0.400 4.3 70
one issues ao end-of-file is machine dependent. 00 - O.lOO 5.683
lhe VAX- Il compute r l he user enters a cont ral-z. - 0.200 6. 13 1
00 ao IBM 370 he enters a null Ijne (i.e. hits return - 0. 100 5.989
0.000 5.905
withou l eotering a ny ot her characlers). The pro- 0.100 6.070
gram stores lhe es ti males ~xmi , ymi, ai } for i = 0.200 6.06 1
1,2 ... ., ncurv in t he one-dimensiona l array p. The 0.300 5.427
elemenls of pare ordered thus (xm l, yml' a i_ xm 2 0.400 4.385
ym 2, a2_ xm 3, ... xm ncllrV' ymncurY' allcu rJ. Thus lhe 0.500 3.742
"'00 3.764
number of paramelers la be estima led by ZXSSQ is 3.834
j usl npar m =3 ncu rv. 0 .800 3.375
Nexl lhe progra m read s in, and counlS, lhe (x, 0.900 2.6 17
y) pairs which sam pIe, ar define, lhe multimodal 1.000 2. 158
curve to be decampased. The data arc rcad on logi- 1. 100 2. 170
1.200 2.275
ca l un i! number I from ao existing file . Variable 2.192
ndata is set to the number of (x, y) pairs entered. 1.400 2."'"
The program checks 10 see if odala > oparm. I.SOO 1.768
The routine ZXSSQ ruos io a variety of modes 1.600 1.432
aod provid es vari ous user selectable oplioos. With 1.700 1.1 60
1.800 1.176
lhe exception of para meter maxfn these aplions are 1.384
selected in lhe assignment statemeot preceding the 2.000 1.474
ca ll to ZX SSQ . Variables nsig, eps a nd delta pro- 2. 100 1.390
vide conve rgence crite ria. ln our impleme ntation 2.200 1.213
lhe first convergence crilerioo controlled by varia- 2.300 0.923
2.400 0.553
ble osig is dominant. Co nvergence is satisfied if 0 0
2.500 0.346
two successive iterations lhe parameler estimales 2.600 0.39J
agree, component by compo nenl to nsig digits. 2.700 0.475
Variab le ipt selccts one of three a lgorithms lhat 2.800 0.406
ZXSSQ may utilize. We set iopt to I so Ihat 2.900 0.254
3.000 0. 144
ZXSSQ uses a slricI desce n! a lgoril hm. 0. 103
3. 100
The firsl argument in the ca lling lisl of ZXSSQ 3.200 0.085
na mes t he applicalion-specific subroutine which 3,300 0.065
ZXSSQ calls to compute the residual vector asso- 3.400 O.OSI
ciated with lhe latest parameter estimales. T his rou- 3.500 0.036
3.000 0.01 8
line COMPRES in turn caUs sub rOUl ine GAUSS
3.700 0.00 3
which evaluates a component gaussian curve. 3.800 0.004
ln lhe maio roulioe, afler lhe ca U to ZXSSQ lhe 3.900 0.004
program checks t hal convergeoce has occurred. If ii 4.000 0.000
has, lhen lhe so luli on is described. The curve para-
meters (xmi, ymi, ai) , i = I, ncurv replace lhe initial

eSlimales in veclor p. O ur program prompts lhe specifies lhe rOOI mcan square deviation between
user for optional graphical output. Th e graphics composite curve and data and describes lhe six
subroutines we use are system dependant <Jnd are gaussian curves used to construct lhe composite
not given. Th ey call subroutine GAUSS to cvaluate curve. Besid es specifying xm , ym and (1 fo r each
cach compo nent gaussian cu rve in lhe range of inle- component curve, GDC also outputs lhe a rca under
rest, the com ponenl curves are then sum mcd to eaeh components cu rve described as a pereenlage of
derive the model composite curve, a nd the original lhe area und er lhe composite curve (that is, lhe sum
data point s are plotted so lhat they can be com pa- of the areas benealh each comp onent curve) . Th e
red with lhe composi te curve. Wc find graph ical program lhen asks if lhe solulions are to be ploued.
examination to be lhe most rapid mea ns lO assess ln our imple menlalio n IWO forma ts are availa ble. If
the solution. th ese qucslions are answered in the affirmative , two
subroutines PGDC and PGDC2 ca lled to plot lhe
Solulions. Our subroutines PGDC and PGD C2 use
a graphical subrout ine package which is not widely
USING PROGRAM GDC availab le and whose implemenlation is system depen-
dent. Therefore PGD C and PGDC2 are not given
ln this sect ion we ilIustrate the use of GDC on
in lhe Appe ndix, but must be provided by lhe rea-
the dala set in Table I. Readers wishing lo im ple-
der. Ali necessary info rmalioo is Slored io lhe one-
ment GD C o n their systems might use this data as a
-d imensional array p. Any reader who has acess to
test case. The data consists of 51 (x, y) pairs, repre-
lhe NCAR graphics package may write to th e au-
senting results of sand grain size analysis of a
thors fo r a copy of our versions of PG De and
scd iment core samplc. Each y va lue is lhe percen-
tage frequency of grains with diameters in the inter-
va i with mid-pOint value x. The gra in sil.t: is measu-
rcd using lhe ~ scaJe. Deca use lhe ~ sca Je is Jogari-
", cU8
lII, ussi .. n curve Enter 1<.,,,, .. 'o, '1s ....
th mic we ca n assu me lhal lhe individua l modes - .2
u .... . ;l n c ur ve 2 Enter K . . ... . 'o, 51 ....
composing lh e frequency curve a re gaussia no S up- ." .1
pose thal we have inspected lh e data (Table I) .,
s;l u5si .. n curve
J. 1
J E"te'r )C .. ..... s l

visually and wish to decompose lhe frequency curve

,. .,
!llussi .. n cur ve E"ter K" . "'.
'o, 5 1
inlo six gaussian compone nls. Then we muSl
estimate the midpoint, height and width (xm , ym, o)
'",. .,
!l. ussi .. n curve
5 Enter "' ...... 'o, ti l ....

,. , ." ,
for each component, and provide these estimales to ... us siln c urv e Enter )C II ..... 'o, 5 i
GDC. SIUtiSil" cur ve
rnter )( ...... 'o, tii
The dialogue produced by interaclive execution
en ler i n. : 1<5ti U; nc urv. 6 nd. t 51
of program GDC is shown in figu re 2. The first !ine n o . of iter .. tions 30.
s t a nd .. rd It rrO r on fil (r1l5 dey") ,, 0,078<1
represents a system dependant command which acti-
eurve ,. si . .... X.re ..
vales program GDC and instructs it to use lhe data
set C168, shown in Ta ble I. The progra m res po nds ,
-0.175 14
0. 25665
3 .3 7 4 79
0 .1551 2
0.1 8 459
"3 . 060
15. 659
by asking for para meter estimates for the first com-
ponent curve. The uscr supplies hi s estimates, and , 1. 26:17 8
2 , 06708
0 :23287
ror auto -5c. led
2. 752 19 0,'1 1801 0.17311 1.8.1 9
the program asks for the second set of parameter ~lot Itn ter 1
est imates, and so on. Since the user whishes to
decompose lhe data into six gaussian curves, when

ro r .. t .nd. r d window ed ~ lot e nt e r 1
lhe program asks for lhe estimated parameters of
lh e seventh component curve he cnters an cnd-of-

-file chara cter, in lhis case a con lrol-Z. The pro- Fig. 2 - Thc d ia logue bctween lhe use I' and program GDC during
gram lhen info rms lhe user Ihat iI is about to call decom pos itioll or dala sei C I68. Thc fil'sl li n( . Iyped by
subroutine ZXSSQ and find six gaussian curves to the use r, acl ivaled a command proccdul'e, which raR pro-
describe the 5 I (x , y) pairs. When ZXSSQ ha s sol- gmm GDC and dcfined file C I6iI as lhe input da la. Afte r
emering ;n;l;al cstimates of cUIVe pararnelers for sii\ com
vcd lhe nonlinear Icasl squares pro blem lhe pro- penem cur'"cs. thc useI' enlcre<! a CO llt rolZ (cnd-oH ilc)
gram oulpUlS the number of ite ra tio ns required by a nd illd ica tcd thal o nly s; x componc lll CUf\'(S W(.C lo be
ZXS SQ to rcac h converge nce. The progra m lhen used.

The solution is graphed in figure 3, where data, peetion of data and eomposite curves. A composite
compo nent a nd composite curves are combined. curve is acceplable to the extent that lhe discre-
The agreement between lhe da ta a nd lhe composite pancy belween data a nd lhe curve is acceptable.
curve is very good except fo r x va lues in lhe range
3. 1-3.6. The user may choose to fUR G De again
and include a seventh compORent curve to relieve D... t ... . I'IOOEl AMO GOC
this problcm. By inspecting lhe disparity between
composite curve and data it would be possible to ' .0
provide a reaso nably good estimale of lhe parame- ,.,
ters for this new compORent curve. For lhe purpo-
ses af our research lhe discrepancy between campo- '.0

site curve and data did not warrant lhe introduc- ,.,
tion of an additiona l compo nent curve. The reader
0 .0
should appreciate lhat visual inspeclion of lhe com-
ponent curve together with lhe Taw data is lhe best o.,
basis for assess ing a give n solution , and for consi- 0. 0
dering how it might be improved by changi ng lhe
0. 0
number of component curves employed.
Our approach to decomposing a multimodal 0.0

curve is as follows. First we inspecl the curve , .0

visually and eSlimate lhe minimum numher of
modes it contains. We then attempt a decomposi- '.0
tion using that mini mum number of modes. We .0
examine the results of that decomposition in terms
of both lhe rOOI mean square (rms) deviation and ~,~.o,....,.,'.oc-.~.o..L.:.J.--!.oll..:,~.o"'-:,~.~.~.~.&.o~o~.~o~.~oHt'o.~ ....J.o
graphical output, and decide if increasing the num- Fig. 3 - Decomposi!ion or data se! CI68 (sc:e
S and 6a. sam-
ber of modes may improve the so lution. If we pie 168). The data po ints (. ), the eomposite curve cons-
d ecide to add another co mponcnt curve wc use lhe lruclcd to Ipproximatc thcm and lhe $;X eomponcnt cur-
results from the first decomposition to g uide our ves usai 10 C0fl51ruCI the composite cu rve Irc represented.
initial para meter estimalCS for the nex l d ecomposi-
tio n. By increasing lhe number of compo nent curve
we a lways attain a smaJler rms deviation . However
because introduci ng a o additional compo nent curve
increases by 3 the nu mber of d egrees of freedo m
avai lable 10 our model (lhe composite curve), tbjs
decrease in the rms deviation may not be sla tisti-
ca lly significan l. Increasing lhe number of compo-
nent curves always increases the instability of the
As lhe numbcrs of modes in a distribution curve
soluti on. Thus, in selecting the preferred number of
increases, and particularly as the degree of overlap
com po ncnt curves to use in a decompositio n, lhe
between modes increases, lhe process of decomposi-
a na lyst is engaged in a trade-off between resolution
tion becomes less slablc, and lhe number of"equally
and reliability. Unless lhe exact ratio of signal to
good" alternative deco mpositions increases. ln ali
noise is known a priori (a sit uatio n Ihat almost
but extreme cases however the results of decompo-
never occurs in practice) the optimum trade-off
sition a re stiIJ useful. To illustrate th is point we
cannol be delermined wilh certai nty. lt is important
consider the results of an experimenl in which
to realize Ihat though th e use of trade-off curves
a single distribution curve (sa nd fraction from sam-
(JACKSON. 1972) and ANQVA can help us assess
pIe 164 in fig . 5) was decomposed ind ependently by
va ri o us cand ida te Solulions, in practice there is no
lwO a nalysts. One analyst used program ODC and
"correct" solution to problems of this kind.
the other used lhe Duponl 310 Curve Resolver
We believe Ihat the rela tive merits of vario us
(CR). The results are shown in figure 4. The CR
ca ndidate solutions a re best assessed by visua l ins-
analyst chose to deco mpose lhe curve into eight

.. CR b

. " -
.. ..-
K ..
., - ,, -

" .. -

_1 .0 ,-.
,. .. -" " ..
S C A!,f
" ..
Fig. 4 _ Dccomposi tion of data seI C I64 by two disl incl ana lyslS. (a ) de<;:ompositi on imo si", compo Rcn ls using Lhe program GDe.
(b) decomposition in lo tighl componcnts Llsing a n al\3 Jog com pute. , lhe Du Po1l1 310 Curve Resolver (CR).

ga ussian modes. The GDC ana lysI chase to use analysts have a relative variation which is greatcr
only six companeot curves. T he fo rmer inlcrprcla- lhan is true o f assigned peak position.
lioo has slig htly bctter resolUlion aI lhe COSI af This example underlines lhe need to interpret
greater instability. AI what poiol lhe analyst stops gaussian decomposili ons with a certain amou nl of
adding new componenl curves reOcels his belief in cau tioo . BUI even in this fairJy sevcre case, wherc
lh e likely sig nal-to-noisc levei. and in lhe extent to several modes overlap to a significant eXlenl, we sec
wh.ich lh e use a f gaussian compo neot cu rves is ren- that decomposition is still use full charaClcri ng the
dered inappropriate by lhe existence af skcw Dr maj or mod es.
k unosis in lhe actual subpopula tion, ele. As a
resu lt, in some cases, and ind ependently of whether
dccomposit ion is performed numcrically or manual-
Iy, different a nalysts wj[ l produce substantially dif-
fe rent results, as in figure 4. Tablc II shows the Pea k poositions assigncd 10 compone nl modes(fig. 4a atld 4b)
peak posit io ns d elermi ned by the two ana lyses by indepcnden l analyslS. Thc numbcr in pa re nthesc:~ indicales
(GDC and CR), and indicates lheir order in terms t h~ rdatiV<' height or eac h mode. St:C tex! for de ta ils.

of peak height. 80th a nalysts agree on lh e peak

position of t he largesl Ihrcc modes. Both recognizc GDe CR
0.42 (6)
the ex..istence of a 4 1h mode of significa nt height - 0.2 1 (5) -0. 19 (5)
ce ntered near 0.9~, bul t here is a significant disere- 0.28 (7)
pancy in assigncd peak position . Both agrce Ihal 1.00 (4) 0.83 (4)
lhe fth highcst mode is localed near 0.2 ~ , but 1.45 (3) 1.48 (3)
a na lyst GDC only invokcs o ne more mode, whereas 2.02 ( I) 2.08 (1)
2.77 (2) 2.10(2)
ana lyst C R invokes threc more. The peak heights 3.16 (8)
3.77 (6)
or areas assigned to t he principal modes by lhe two

CASESTUDY ferred to sieving techniques because: (a) they allow

rapid and precise processing of samples; (b) they
Wc have llsed the program ODe to analyze need only a few grams of sed iment; (c) they yield
grain size distribution af the sandy fraction af bot- size distributions that are much closer to conti-
tom sediment samples [rom the continental shelf of nuous than those yielded by sievi ng; (d) they
Northern Portugal (fig. 5). Tn general, the sed iment approximate the hydrodynamic processes of sedi-
in this area can be divided into fo ur types of depo- ment transport and deposition (e.g. REED et ai.,
sits (DIAS & NrTTRouER , 1983): (a) nearshore depo- 1975; TAIRA & SCHOLLE. 1979). Th e distribution
sits 30 fi watcr dcpth) - mainly fine quartzic curves used in this study have a ~ spacing of 0.1.
sands, largely unimodal, and c1assified as modem; Ali distribution curves were decomposed using
(h) midd-shelf deposits (30 rn-8D m) - coarsc, poly- GDC in arder to examine their modal structure.
modal quartz sands with graveI, classified as essen- The distribution curve of figure 3 (sample 168,
tially aneient (rcJict); (c) outcr shelf deposits (80 m- fig. 6) is a typical resulto The results of the modal
150 m) - polymodal carbonate - rich sands intcr- analyses are summarized, in graphical fo rm, in
preted as a mixture af m odem and relict deposits; figures 6a (transect A) and 6b (transect B).
(d) shelf break deposits (> 150 m) - very fine, well Transect A, the cross shelf transect, consists of
so rted sands. We consider here sam pies fro m two 10 samples obtained from water depths ranging
transects (fig. 5): t ransect A is a cross-shelf transect fram la m to 165 m. The maio conclusions to be
(samplcs 164, 165, 167- 174) and transect B is a mid- extracted of lhe analysis of these samples (fig. 6a),
-she1f transect (sam pies 171, 175, 180, 181, 185, are:
All samples were obtained with a grab sa mpler. I) All samples are polymodal, though in some
The sand fraction, which represents over 90% of the cases a single mode is dominant in terms of vo lume;
original sediment, was isolated by wet-sieving at 4 j) 2) Ind ividual modes usuaHy persist for many
(to remove silt and day) and by dry-sieving at 1 ~ (to kilometers and cao be correlated from sample to
remove gravei). sample. Although t he relative proportion of a cons-
Textural analysis of the sand fraction was per- titueot mode may change from site to site, tts peak
formed on the SGP-BALSED settling tube (DIAS & positioo (mean grain size) is Iess variable.
MONTEIRO. 1979). Settling tube techniques are pre- 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 uniq ue 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 relative 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-
Fig. 5 - Location of hottom sediment sam pies discussed in lhe ring io water decper thao 85 m cao bc interpreted
tex\. Transect A is across the shclf, whilc lfansect B run.1 as residual modes. J. A. DIAS & C. NITTRQUER
a!ong the mid-shelf. Bathymetry in meter.;.
(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 samp les

,,------------------.----, coHected in this transect are summarized in figure

A B C o 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
These results and interpretations must be viewed
with care, because sediments in this area have a
carbo nate fraction which may account for betwecn
2% and 86% of the total sand fraction. ln the case
af nearshore and mid-shelf dep osits this percentage



,,, ,,
~ % ; ii %
,,~ ili~ 12
ii 12
,,, ~ 12~
% 12 12

ii 12


12 12
12 12
~ 12
,,, JJ1
~ f12

(37m) t
~ .
~ ~ JJ1
-, O ,
, -,. ,. ,.
,. "
Fig. 6 _ Summa ry (lf mo dal decompositions for lhe ~!mples of t ransects A and B (fig. 5). Each sample is
decomposed joIo a variable !lumbcr of rondes. Each mnde is codcd using lh e "invcrted I ' shaped
sy mbo L Thc horiwntal lin e cncode:; lh e valuc of 0, a nd hcoce lhe width or lhe model. T he vert ica l
line cnclod cs lhe a rca under lhe gaus:;ia n cu rve. The :;ca les a re show n in lh e inset. Figure 6a show,
samples from transect A, <Ind figure tib lhe samp lc s of (r"OSCel fi. Classe:; of rondes A- F are di scusscd
in lhe lext. Tlle dashed zonc represcnts lh e I a zonc associat ed with lh e rncrnbcr mn des

is small, and lhe presence of carbo nates is not a pro- ACKNOW I, F.nr.J<:MENTS
bl em; lhe sarne is no! t rue af lhe deeper dcposits.
T hc presence of carbonate pa rticlcs may be pro- Thi s research was initiated during a visil by
blematic in sedimento logical interpretat ions becau- 1 .M.A. Dias la Norlh Caro lina Slatc Universily.
se wc do no! know whet her a shell ar shell fragmenl The visil was suppo rted by lhe USA ID program
has beco tra nspo rted and deposited with o lher pa r- Ihrough lhe U.S.A . Na liona l Academy of Sciences,
l icles. Carbona le fragme nls a f non-detrita l o rigin a nd by J NICT of Port ugal under con lraCI NE B-
might appear as a no ma lo us mad es, fO f instance, -OOO I-C-oO-20l 8-00. Add itional su pporl was provi-
either distinct from modcs associa ted wit h d ispersaI ded by lh e Geological Survey of P ort ugal (Serv ios
patterns o r wlth lh e peak posit io tl af l hese rnodes Geolgicos d e P o rtugal).
changed. One so lu tion to this proble m is to mak e We Iha nk J. Paul Dauphi n (Gradualc Sc hool of
separa te modal d ccom positions fo r l he ca rbonate Occa nography, University of Rhodc Islund) fo r his
and non-carhonatc sa nd fractions. Th is is a stra ight help in decomposing sa mple curvc 164 on lhe
forward exte nsion of lhe work alread y perfo rmcd. Dupont 310 Curve Resolver. C. Nillrouer, M. Kim -
After ma.king a tex tu ral a na lysis o f lh e laIa I sand berley a nd L. Gil bert provid ed uscful rcviews of the
fraet ion, lhe carbonate can bc remo ved byehemical manuscript. Th is is co nt ribulio n number 83-14 of
solut io n, a nd lhe non-carbo nate sa nd can again be lhe Depa rt menl of Marine, Earth and At mos pheric
subjecI to text ura l a na lysis. By sub lracting lhe non- Seicnces, NCSU , and re por! 2/ 83 of t he Ma rine
-carbo nale dislributio n curve from the tOlal sa nd Geology Division of " Servios Geolgicos de P or-
dist ribu lion curve wc could infer the dis lrib uti on tugal" .
curve assoc iated with lhe ca rbo na te sands. All t hree
d ist ribu lio ns cou ld be analysed usi ng G DC. Carefu l
analysis of ali Ihrec curves would gcnera te more
infonnation and probably would lead to an impro-
ved und ersta nd ing o f tex tural, composit ional and
dispersai palterns. BROWN. K. M. & DEN"'I~. J . E. ( 19n) lJerivative a nalog ues or
lhe Levenbc:rg-fo,larqua rdl a n Gauss algorithm s for non-
-linea r Icast squa rc-s approxi mat io ns. NUI>I/'fi.fchl.' Malhe-
mil/iii. I II: 289-297.
C"'SSIf.. M. N. ( 1954) _ Some lISCS of probabi lit)' paper in lhe analy-
CON CLU DING R E MARKS sis or si7e frequcZICy di~triblllions. lourn. Au.maUall Mar.
and Fre'h ..... mn Ruearch, 5: 513-522.
The FO I{ T RAN -77 program G DC decomposes CLARK. M"LCOM W. ( 1976) - So me Methods ror Statistical Analy-
sis (lf Mll ltimoda[ Distribllli ons a nd their Application lo
a mult i moda! curve int o a user-spccificd number of Grain-si7.e Dala. Malhematica/ Geo/08Y. 11(3): 267-2~2.
gaussian curves. The major ad va nt agcs of lhi s pro- CURRAY. JOSEPH R ( 1960) ~ Sedimenls and hi ~lllry of Holocen<:
Tratlsgre$~ion, Continenlal sheJf, Nonhwesl Gu lf af
gra m ove r lhe use of an analog computer are ils Mexico. ,,, .. "Rec:nt Sediments Northwesl Gul f of
speed and availabi lity. Ah ho ugh wc have a pp lied Me llico. F. P. Shepard. F. R. P h[ege r & T. H. Va n
l he progra m la tex lu ra l analysis of sed iments. lhe Andei. (Ed.) Tulsa. Okla . A.A.P.G .. pp. 221-266.
program i(self is nOI orie nlcd lowards any spcciric DAUP IlI'i. J . I' AU I ( 1980) - Si1.e di~lrib ulion or chcmieally ell lrac-
ted q uart1. usc:d 10 harnlerize fine-graincd sedime nts.
applica tio n, and migh t be uscd as effectively by a ),>IIm. Sei/imo Pelrolo8Y. 50( 1): 205-2 14 .
spectroscOpisl, for example . Thc modula r strucl ure DtAs. J M. A. &: MONTFIRO. J . H. C. ( 1979) - A bala na de
of the program will facil itate its modification to sedimentao dos S.G. P. - Construo. calibrao. lcoria
do mtodo e funcio namento. Ue/o Dil'. Gco/. Marinha.
deal with d iffere nl component curve lypes (c.g. a Servo Geol. Por tuga l, Lisboa, 1/19: 46 p.
Lorentzian curve) ar l he incorporation of suc h DJ AS. J . M. A. & NITI"ROUE(!.. C. A. ( 1983) - Co ntinenta l ~ helf
para melers as skewness or kurlosis. scdiments of No rlhern Portu ga l. CO lllin enro / shell
ReSl!tlrch.3(2): [ 47-165
T he program can be modified for use with a HARllU'iG. J. P. (1949) ~ The use or probabilily paper for gmphical
FORT RAN -IV compi lcr. Wc fa vor lhe use o f analysis of po[ymoda[ f",que tlcy d islri b utions. Morillf~
FORTRA N-77 bccausc it conla ins many of t he Riol. As.wc. Unled Kingdum Joum., 211; 141- 151
Ii ARR IS. S . A. ([95~ ) - P ro oobi li lY curves and lhe rccogn ilion of
s truct ured program ming fealu res Iha l have led 10 adjuslmc nt 10 cpositional environmc nt. l o"",. Sedo Pelro-
lhe po pu la rity o f languages suc h as P ASCA L. 101;)', 18: 151- 163.
FORTR AN -77 comp ilers (and supersels such as IMSL (1982) T he IMSllibrary Rdcrence Ma nual. Tlle IMS l
Lib rary is an ...... tensivc colleelion or malhemalica l and
VAX- FORTRAN) have becomc quile co rnmo n in statislical sllbroutincs wriuen in Fortran. [\ is li co mmer-
recent ycars. cial product of I MSl. Inc. or Houslon. T(~as.

)ALKSO ... o O. (1972) Interpretation of inaccuratc. in,uflicient APPENDIX

and ineonsistent data. (j.,ophys, J. ROI". Astron. Soe .. 28:
97- 109
Listing of program GDC
LH'E"eO((;. K, (1944) - A melhod foI' the so lut ion of cenain non-
Iinear problell1' in Icast square, _ Qual"l. Apl''- ..\Ialh .. 2:
164- 168.
MI\II.QU ARDT, 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 "Oe to" ' ""' c ~ "" . i h c u,, ~ i "'0 " u &c-r '[>ec i f i e<i "u~ber
" ~c"" po . e . ,>
OSER, KOIll, 1I.1 K. (1972) - S~d imc ntary compon~nts of NOl1hwest ,,( "i,,, n c' q o",,' . n C U " . .
Pacific Pdagic 'iCdiments. Juum, of Sedo Pelru/ogy. 42(l}; , ~p"dt , ~a l"
"1 ~ , h
10 _ h . 0 _. 1
".>v'. ,
JU OO . 1 ,~ i" l w Ji, "

u'Hoo l c","p,eo
461-467. c' " ...... , .. " .............. , , " ,.
RHl). W. L, LEHVER. R. & MOtR . G. J. (1975) Depos itional " "H" ' 'O ' . LO.'[NG ."." ',;K'"',
MUS" g[ 'DJ U ' ~E D ro IN C."", T HE
envi ronmcnt inte rpretation [mm ,ctt ling-velocity (psi) dis- C SUE or ,,<E
P.O BL EH ""ICIj CA" n< "01 ,.'"
C " ' ""T ... to e ~ d. i ~ u . nu~bor ot d., 1 ' 0".d
tributi ons. (je%gical Soeii"ly oJ Americo Bull<"lin. 86: ~ X"C " R~ .. ~ .. ;~ u '" allo,, ~d n,,~ "" r 0' co'" """",,' 'j a u . . 'a" CU" ""
"~ <n .... ~";~ "~ o ,, ~ b e ' o , 'unc' ,o n . , , ' u o t,on. l'@ ' c o icul ot, on
1321 - 1328.
ROGEII.S, J. J . (19 59) - Delection of lognofmul ,iLC disnibutio!1 in
clastic sedimcnt>. .Ioum. Sedo ferrolagl', 29: 402-407
C,,, .... ...... ,.... ,.. ,
" ",,,,....tcl'

p>< ar,,,,.r
1 " "nrto 1 0~.

l ~ xnp, ~ "J' ~xn~,,,..-,

moro,v-l", ~, x ," " )
o" I. 'n" n., I '.. n ~ ' '' (2)
p o , o ~ d", 1,t2~i _ 1.'."";>S27')

SPENCEII.. D, W. (1963) - T he imerprctation of grain -si ze distribu - P" ' "~~ . . , lo w2 _ ' ' ,HOP "" 2 ' ~ '" r t s' .... 1
. . o i" , I""' ph l " -I",,, P' " ) , r ~" I ~x nr ts ) . r (~xn p,~ 1 ,"p ( ' 1
tion curves 01' elastic sediments. .Iourn, Sedo Pelro logy. , .o i " , jac 1"' ''Pt> , ~, or ,~ 1 , x j t i 1" .1 ,.or ' 10 "'1
, " ,]'" ~'"" I ~, n c ,,nl
33: 180-1'iO co""'o(] 1.",, / y. '
T ,\IRA. A. & SOIOU ,r . P. 1\. (I 979) ~ Discrimination 01' dcpositio-
c pro~pt ' c, initi . ' ~.ti . ot~" o , ;O '"IX' to< <',eh 9,0 . . ; , n
nal environment using settling tu be dal a: .Ioum. Sedo c "orv e . Us e r ~. U~,,~. u ,y~, ~nd ' ''l OO 'U' " oeh c ~ """<',,'
Perrolog)', 49: 787-800. c cu , v. 1" Cu,,,. Jo. , " ot o<., o c' ",,-o(- f \l ~ 'o b ,~ o ' ou t o,
lhi " lQOP
TI\Nr> ER. W. F. (1964) Modificatioll of scdiment si7e dislribu - icu,, .
tions. JOUf/l. Sed Perrology. 34: 156- 164. ;cu,v' i ,,,,"1
_, i, ~ 1'" lO licu"
VA:-.' ANlJ~l.. T. H. (1<)64) - RcccllI marine sediments of Gulf of 10 [ ona'I", " " i . n c u,, ~ ', U . "' , I' ~"'" "" ,,a ' l
i 1' 1 i eul"- ' I ' j , 1
Ca lifomia. 111: Marinc Gcology of lhe Gu lf of Ca lifornia,
A Symposium. T. ti, Van And ei & G. G. Shor. Jr, (Ed l.
' c,," ( 5 ,'
, "to'
. ~"" ,e I r 11 'I , p i J "
'1 ,p IJ j., I
Tulsa, Okla .. A.A .P.G. Buli.: 216-310. ,~ nc",v ieu",_ l
n~ "' ~ 'ne"<v ''J
( 1973) - Texture and disper>al o]' scdimenls in thc i ! 1ncu," .qt..mn ,,,.,,] ". ~ "

Panama Basin: .I'mm. (jeology. 81 : 434457 "rio ' ','",, ~ b p< " , c,," ~, ~"c.~ o ""~" ~ d llo",hl ~ '
;H.n ' ' , ' I."" p""m"' ~ , m " cu", in ....',,, p,,,,,,._ I
VtSl!~R, G . S. {I91i9} - Grain ,ize distribution, and dcpo,itional s u,p
~ "J [
proce'scs . .Ioum, Sed. I ' elrology. 39: I074- II6.
c aod '.y p.i "

5~ r ..
... ..,
"" d, -,1. ' ",,,,-.'1.' ,,',,' ,., .' (,.,.. ,,'I
'0< 0 "
iO ""0 "' ''''.'._ '
i' 1"".".1 < .np., . 1 tt,",
P';"' " . , ,, n. u"' " '. '' ' " .,.
p,i"' " .,,,,",,., ,,' .lo to """ , ~" " ' ",,-, e d -, ., ,,,,. ,, . , c,' cu, -, . . I'
" "p
~ od "
i' I "dot "OL-.np to ) , ~ "
P'"'"'_ ','"0 """,
p, inc . . . . . . . p .". ~ '" '
do . . po into . . c ... d. " . " . , " oLOow.bl o '
",op to ,,, ..
io P,o" ,.~ ,
", op
. od ;,

wr;C o l ', " I """' -' . ""'"

" 'o u,o CI I ,. oo ' .. ; o, " . .'" """ ,, . ', i ' ,' "" .... ' , i "
c ooln lo probl ~ . y;, . ". ' ,00U".

op' ' 00 '

os i.'
d.op'It._ ,

iop' "
coI' . ... qle o-p' " ' , "" ... ,np uo , n.;o ,.p . . .. 1 ' . , ~ .,'n O?t ,
W" .", ;;" , ' o' ,, j.e , ~ '"P". ') t j ,wo,',. i " h , i~, I

c ch ~ c ' """,,, ~ "o .

i f I in lo , . "" 10 ' ; '" " , " . , ; . r
'o,. ot l l ,,,,",~,.""~" ,.iI , " .. q , .t u," , ; . , . ' . ' "
''<i"'u . .. . . I''"''
c co\cul .. ~ th ~ .,~. "M"
. ,e h .,u.'on c",~ . , "o', ,"to '
c ""nuC" 'O" e ,,..,,,,. i 'e "" n o

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c oi, " 0' "'l." '" ...0'''' '' '" t o i "
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" j " " . " .. ,.... " ... "" , , " ",
, "j.", t ""'II'" L".' " , ' - "I " ' ~)