Deep-water sediment bypass

Christopher J. Stevenson, Christopher A L Jackson, David M. Hodgson, Stephen M. Hubbard, Joris T. Eggenhuisen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Submarine gravity flows are a key process for transporting large volumes of sediment from the continents to the deep sea. The location, volume, and character of the sediment bypassed by these flows dictates the areal extent and thickness of the associated deposits. Despite its importance, sediment bypass is poorly understood in terms of flow processes and the associated stratigraphic expression. We first examine the relationships between the physical parameters that govern bypass in flows, before assessing the variable stratigraphic expression of bypass from modern seafloor, outcrop, and subsurface datasets. Theoretical and numerical approaches distinguish grain size, slope, flow size, and sediment concentration as parameters that exert major controls on flow bypass. From field data, a suite of criteria are established to recognize bypass in the geological record. We identify four bypass-dominated zones, each of which is associated with a set of diagnostic criteria: slope-channel bypass, slope-bypass from mass wasting events, base-of-slope bypass, and basin-floor bypass. As the expression of bypass varies spatially and is dependent on the scale of observation, a range of scale-dependent criteria are required for robust interpretation of these zones in the field or subsurface. This synthesis of deep-water sediment bypass highlights the challenge in quantitatively linking process with product. The establishment of criteria to recognize sediment bypass, qualitatively linked with flow processes, is an important step towards improving our understanding of submarine flow dynamics and resultant stratigraphic architecture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1058-1081
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Sedimentary Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


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