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Evolution of submarine sediment density flows deduced from long distance bed correlations

Evolution of submarine sediment density flows deduced from long distance bed correlations
Evolution of submarine sediment density flows deduced from long distance bed correlations
Submarine flows can transport huge volumes of sediment across the large submarine fans that dominate many parts of the deep ocean floor. Active flow events are notoriously difficult to monitor directly, and therefore our understanding of such flows still strongly relies on the analysis of the deposits they leave behind.

This thesis aims to investigate the transport and depositional processes, the stacking patterns and the time frequency distribution of turbidites and debrites deposited in the Miocene Marnoso Arenacea Formation (Italian Apennines). This location is unique because deposits from individual flow events (beds) can be traced for long distances, allowing the lateral and down flow evolution of single flow events to be analyzed in detail. Lateral changes in individual flow deposits are documented through extensive correlation of beds deposited in a stratigraphic interval below the most prominent Contessa Marker bed. The observed transitions in facies, and the external shape of different types of deposit, are used as an independent test of models that capture our understanding of submarine flow processes.

This work highlights how deposits of submarine density flows can be complex, even in relatively simple basin plain settings. A single event can comprise different flow types, and transformations can occur between these flow types. The initial volume, sediment concentration and grain size (including the proportion of fine cohesive mud) control the external shape of the deposits. Low density turbidity currents deposit clean sandstone beds with an exponentially tapering shape, while coarser grained high density turbidity currents produce massive or parallel laminated layers that maintain their thickness for longer (10’s of kilometers) distances. Cohesive debris flows form istinctive ungraded mud-rich sandstone that can either pinch-out abruptly or gradually taper. Liquefied debris flows with elevated pore pressures can deposit clean (mud-poor) sand over large areas (up to 30 km) of the Marnoso Arenacea basin plain. This is suggested by the distinctive swirly, patchy fabric of a particular type of clean sandstone, that records pervasive liquefaction during the late stages of the flow, and confirmed by the rapid pinch-out geometry of flow deposits at their margins. Such debris flows most likely form through transformation from an initial high density turbidity current. A similar flow process may characterize the distal, rapid pinch out of sandstone lobes in Fan 4 of the Skoorsteenberg Formation (Karoo basin, South Africa).

The observed stacking pattern of turbidite beds in a 530 meters thick stratigraphic section indicates a long-term clustering. Debrite intervals however occur randomly, and bed correlation suggest that almost every large volume flow deposited clean or muddy debrite (or both) intervals in different positions of the basin.

Hemipelagic marl thickness is used as a proxy for time between flow events. The distribution of time between events is exponential, therefore related to a Poisson Process. This indicates that flow events (most likely triggered by submarine slope failures) occur independently one from the other through time.
Malgesini, Giusseppe
c905366c-f7d2-4fb5-a7f7-db3c583e922e
Malgesini, Giusseppe
c905366c-f7d2-4fb5-a7f7-db3c583e922e
Talling, Peter
1cbac5ec-a9f8-4868-94fe-6203f30b47cf

(2012) Evolution of submarine sediment density flows deduced from long distance bed correlations. University of Southampton, School of Ocean and Earth Science, Doctoral Thesis, 225pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Submarine flows can transport huge volumes of sediment across the large submarine fans that dominate many parts of the deep ocean floor. Active flow events are notoriously difficult to monitor directly, and therefore our understanding of such flows still strongly relies on the analysis of the deposits they leave behind.

This thesis aims to investigate the transport and depositional processes, the stacking patterns and the time frequency distribution of turbidites and debrites deposited in the Miocene Marnoso Arenacea Formation (Italian Apennines). This location is unique because deposits from individual flow events (beds) can be traced for long distances, allowing the lateral and down flow evolution of single flow events to be analyzed in detail. Lateral changes in individual flow deposits are documented through extensive correlation of beds deposited in a stratigraphic interval below the most prominent Contessa Marker bed. The observed transitions in facies, and the external shape of different types of deposit, are used as an independent test of models that capture our understanding of submarine flow processes.

This work highlights how deposits of submarine density flows can be complex, even in relatively simple basin plain settings. A single event can comprise different flow types, and transformations can occur between these flow types. The initial volume, sediment concentration and grain size (including the proportion of fine cohesive mud) control the external shape of the deposits. Low density turbidity currents deposit clean sandstone beds with an exponentially tapering shape, while coarser grained high density turbidity currents produce massive or parallel laminated layers that maintain their thickness for longer (10’s of kilometers) distances. Cohesive debris flows form istinctive ungraded mud-rich sandstone that can either pinch-out abruptly or gradually taper. Liquefied debris flows with elevated pore pressures can deposit clean (mud-poor) sand over large areas (up to 30 km) of the Marnoso Arenacea basin plain. This is suggested by the distinctive swirly, patchy fabric of a particular type of clean sandstone, that records pervasive liquefaction during the late stages of the flow, and confirmed by the rapid pinch-out geometry of flow deposits at their margins. Such debris flows most likely form through transformation from an initial high density turbidity current. A similar flow process may characterize the distal, rapid pinch out of sandstone lobes in Fan 4 of the Skoorsteenberg Formation (Karoo basin, South Africa).

The observed stacking pattern of turbidite beds in a 530 meters thick stratigraphic section indicates a long-term clustering. Debrite intervals however occur randomly, and bed correlation suggest that almost every large volume flow deposited clean or muddy debrite (or both) intervals in different positions of the basin.

Hemipelagic marl thickness is used as a proxy for time between flow events. The distribution of time between events is exponential, therefore related to a Poisson Process. This indicates that flow events (most likely triggered by submarine slope failures) occur independently one from the other through time.

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More information

Published date: July 2012
Organisations: University of Southampton, Ocean and Earth Science

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 351356
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/351356
PURE UUID: 9d334224-1d8f-4f5d-bbdb-e9c781fcf04c

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Date deposited: 18 Apr 2013 14:40
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 04:26

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Contributors

Author: Giusseppe Malgesini
Thesis advisor: Peter Talling

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