Reconstructing the sediment concentration of a giant submarine gravity flow

Christopher Stevenson, Peter Feldens, Aggeliki Georgiopoulou, Mischa Schӧnke, Sebastian Krastel, David Piper, Katja Lindhorst, David Mosher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Submarine gravity flows are responsible for the largest sediment accumulations on the planet, but are notoriously difficult to measure in action. Giant flows transport 100s of km3 of sediment with run-out distances over 2000 km. Sediment concentration is a first order control on flow dynamics and deposit character. It has never been measured directly nor convincingly estimated in large submarine flows. Here we reconstruct the sediment concentration of a historic giant submarine flow, the 1929 “Grand Banks” event, using two independent approaches, each validated by estimates of flow speed from cable breaks. The
calculated average bulk sediment concentration of the flow was 2.7–5.4% by volume. This is orders of magnitude higher than directly-measured smaller-volume flows in river deltas and submarine canyons. The new concentration estimate provides a test case for scaled experiments and numerical simulations, and a major step towards a quantitative understanding of these prodigious flows.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2616
Pages (from-to)1-7
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2018

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