A critical test of the concept of submarine equilibrium profile

Aggeliki Georgiopoulou, Joseph A. Cartwright

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The existence of a slope equilibrium profile has been widely used to account for erosional and depositional processes on submarine slopes and turbidite systems. Profiles out-of-equilibrium are commonly observed in actively deforming areas where channels seem to be deflected or diverted by seafloor structures. In this study the concept of the submarine equilibrium profile is tested in an area of extensive surface faulting to examine whether channels adopt an equilibrium-type profile through time. The study area is on the slope of the Nile Delta, which is disrupted by a number of surface-rupturing normal faults. Prior to fault linkage, several submarine channels flowed down the slope and either utilised relay ramps or flowed through fault scarps of the fault array. Where a relay ramp had been utilised, post fault linkage, the channels of the area either avulsed or converged into one major channel in response to a change in the deformed slope profile to a more concave shape. The thalweg of the post fault linkage channel and two slope profiles either side of it are measured in the area of the fault array, to understand how the channel evolved in response to the active faulting. When fault displacement is relatively small the combination of channel erosion and aggradation results in a channel thalweg profile near-equilibrium with predictable modifications of channel dimensions (depth and width) even if sediment supply was infrequent and episodic. It is concluded that turbidite channels can conform to the concept of equilibrium and submarine base level if it is the most energy efficient route for submarine gravity flows downslope. The most energy efficient route will be one where flows bypass the slope without eroding or depositing and move in a direct downslope course towards base level.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)35-47
    Number of pages13
    JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2013


    • Fault linkage
    • Nile Delta
    • Normal fault
    • Submarine channel
    • Submarine equilibrium profile


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