Morphodynamics of submarine channel inception revealed by new experimental approach

J. de Leeuw, J.T. Eggenhuisen, M.J.B. Cartigny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Submarine channels are ubiquitous on the seafloor and their inception and evolution is a result of dynamic interaction between turbidity currents and the evolving seafloor. However, the morphodynamic links between channel inception and flow dynamics have not yet been monitored in experiments and only in one instance on the modern seafloor. Previous experimental flows did not show channel inception, because flow conditions were not appropriately scaled to sustain suspended sediment transport. Here we introduce and apply new scaling constraints for similarity between natural and experimental turbidity currents. The scaled currents initiate a leveed channel from an initially featureless slope. Channelization commences with deposition of levees in some slope segments and erosion of a conduit in other segments. Channel relief and flow confinement increase progressively during subsequent flows. This morphodynamic evolution determines the architecture of submarine channel deposits in the stratigraphic record and efficiency of sediment bypass to the basin floor.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10886
JournalNature Communications [E]
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2016


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