Continential slope morphodynamics: Turbidity currents, minibasins and submarine canyons

Many minibasins that found on continental slopes such as in the Gulf of Mexico have been gradually filled by turbidity currents.  We tested different models of minibasin filling including continuous turbidity currents and pulse-like flows in an experimental basin.  As reported in a series of publications, we found that continuous and surging turbidity currents created unique turbidites, in which the deposits from surging turbidity currents were notably more ponded.  In addition, we found that even large sustained flows may not fill more than one basin at a time due to the interaction with minibasin topography which caused formation of a hydraulic jump, development of a settling interface, and detrainment of water across that interface.

Through analysis of a new bathymetric map of the submarine Eel Canyon, offshore California, we have discovered morphologic evidence for recent turbidity-current activity.  In a GSA Bulletin publication, we propose that turbidity currents superelevate at the dramatic 90 degree bend in the canyon, and they are responsible for incision of a distributary channel, cyclic step bedforms, and a northerly displaced fan lobe.