Large underwater experiment in Monterey Canyon shows turbidity currents involve seafloor movement
Large underwater experiment in California’s Monterey Canyon shows that “turbidity currents” are not just currents, but involve movement of the seafloor itself.
Turbidity currents have historically been described as fast-moving currents that sweep down submarine canyons, carrying sand and mud into the deep sea. But a new paper in Nature Communications shows that, rather than just consisting of sediment-laden seawater flowing over the seafloor, turbidity currents also involve large-scale sediment movements within the seafloor. This discovery emerged from an 18-month-long, multi-institutional study of Monterey Canyon. USGS researchers and marine technicians were collaborators in the project, which monitored a 50-kilometer-long stretch of the canyon in unprecedented detail. The findings could help ocean engineers avoid damage to pipelines, communications cables, and other seafloor structures. Read a news release from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the scientific paper in Nature.
Paull, C.K., Talling, P.J., Maier, K.L., Parsons, D., Xu, J., Caress, D.W., Gwiazda, R., Lundsten, E.M., Anderson, K., Barry, J.P., Chaffey, M., O’Reilly, T., Rosenberger, K.J., Gales, J.A., Kieft, B., McGann, M., Simmons, S.M., McCann, M., Sumner, E.J., Clare, M.A., and Cartigny, M.J., 2018, Powerful turbidity currents driven by dense basal layers: Nature Communications, v. 9 no. 1, 9 pages, doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06254-6.