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Direct monitoring reveals initiation of turbidity currents from extremely dilute river plumes

Direct monitoring reveals initiation of turbidity currents from extremely dilute river plumes
Direct monitoring reveals initiation of turbidity currents from extremely dilute river plumes
Rivers (on land) and turbidity currents (in the ocean) are the most important sediment transport processes on Earth. Yet, how rivers generate turbidity currents as they enter the coastal ocean remains poorly understood. The current paradigm, based on laboratory experiments, is that turbidity currents are triggered when river plumes exceed a threshold sediment concentration of ~1 kg.m‐3. Here we present direct observations of an exceptionally dilute river‐plume, with sediment concentrations one order of magnitude below this threshold (0.07 kg.m‐3), which generated a fast (1.5 m.s‐1), erosive, short‐lived (6 min) turbidity current. However, no turbidity current occurred during subsequent river‐plumes. We infer that turbidity currents are generated when fine‐sediment, accumulating in a tidal turbidity maximum, is released during spring tide. This means that very dilute river‐plumes can generate turbidity currents more frequently and in a wider range of locations, than previously thought.
0094-8276
Hage, Sophie
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Cartigny, Matthieu J.b.
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Sumner, Esther J.
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Clare, Michael A.
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Hughes Clarke, John E.
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Talling, Peter J.
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Lintern, D. Gwyn
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Simmons, Stephen M.
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Silva Jacinto, Ricardo
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Vellinga, Age J.
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Allin, Joshua R.
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Azpiroz‐zabala, Maria
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Gales, Jenny A.
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Hizzett, Jamie L.
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Hunt, James E.
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Mozzato, Alessandro
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Parsons, Daniel R.
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Pope, Ed L.
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Stacey, Cooper D.
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Symons, William O.
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Vardy, Mark E.
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Watts, Camilla
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Hage, Sophie
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Cartigny, Matthieu J.b.
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Sumner, Esther J.
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Clare, Michael A.
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Hughes Clarke, John E.
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Talling, Peter J.
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Lintern, D. Gwyn
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Simmons, Stephen M.
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Silva Jacinto, Ricardo
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Vellinga, Age J.
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Allin, Joshua R.
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Azpiroz‐zabala, Maria
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Gales, Jenny A.
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Hizzett, Jamie L.
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Hunt, James E.
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Mozzato, Alessandro
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Parsons, Daniel R.
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Pope, Ed L.
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Stacey, Cooper D.
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Symons, William O.
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Vardy, Mark E.
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Watts, Camilla
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Hage, Sophie, Cartigny, Matthieu J.b., Sumner, Esther J., Clare, Michael A., Hughes Clarke, John E., Talling, Peter J., Lintern, D. Gwyn, Simmons, Stephen M., Silva Jacinto, Ricardo, Vellinga, Age J., Allin, Joshua R., Azpiroz‐zabala, Maria, Gales, Jenny A., Hizzett, Jamie L., Hunt, James E., Mozzato, Alessandro, Parsons, Daniel R., Pope, Ed L., Stacey, Cooper D., Symons, William O., Vardy, Mark E. and Watts, Camilla (3019) Direct monitoring reveals initiation of turbidity currents from extremely dilute river plumes. Geophysical Research Letters. (doi:10.1029/2019GL084526).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Rivers (on land) and turbidity currents (in the ocean) are the most important sediment transport processes on Earth. Yet, how rivers generate turbidity currents as they enter the coastal ocean remains poorly understood. The current paradigm, based on laboratory experiments, is that turbidity currents are triggered when river plumes exceed a threshold sediment concentration of ~1 kg.m‐3. Here we present direct observations of an exceptionally dilute river‐plume, with sediment concentrations one order of magnitude below this threshold (0.07 kg.m‐3), which generated a fast (1.5 m.s‐1), erosive, short‐lived (6 min) turbidity current. However, no turbidity current occurred during subsequent river‐plumes. We infer that turbidity currents are generated when fine‐sediment, accumulating in a tidal turbidity maximum, is released during spring tide. This means that very dilute river‐plumes can generate turbidity currents more frequently and in a wider range of locations, than previously thought.

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Hageetal2019 - Accepted Manuscript
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Accepted/In Press date: 2 September 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 13 September 3019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 434754
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/434754
ISSN: 0094-8276
PURE UUID: 525da2c0-47b5-4b79-aba9-7726fd5221e3
ORCID for Joshua R. Allin: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4003-7495

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Date deposited: 08 Oct 2019 16:30
Last modified: 16 Dec 2019 17:32

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Contributors

Author: Sophie Hage
Author: Matthieu J.b. Cartigny
Author: Michael A. Clare
Author: John E. Hughes Clarke
Author: Peter J. Talling
Author: D. Gwyn Lintern
Author: Stephen M. Simmons
Author: Ricardo Silva Jacinto
Author: Age J. Vellinga
Author: Joshua R. Allin ORCID iD
Author: Maria Azpiroz‐zabala
Author: Jenny A. Gales
Author: Jamie L. Hizzett
Author: James E. Hunt
Author: Alessandro Mozzato
Author: Daniel R. Parsons
Author: Ed L. Pope
Author: Cooper D. Stacey
Author: William O. Symons
Author: Mark E. Vardy
Author: Camilla Watts

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