Just as rivers move sediment across the land, turbidity currents are the dominant process carrying sediments and organic carbon from coastal areas into the deep sea. Turbidity currents can also destroy underwater cables, pipelines, and other human structures. Unlike rivers, however, turbidity currents are extremely difficult to study and measure.
At the Fall 2017 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, scientists from around the world will present 19 talks and posters about the Coordinated Canyon Experiment--the most extensive, long-term effort to monitor turbidity currents ever attempted. The results of this two-year project challenge existing paradigms about what causes turbidity currents, what they look like, and how they work.
This illustration shows some of the 16 sediment-flow events documented during the Coordinated Canyon Experiment. The arrows indicate minimum estimates of how far each event traveled down the floor of Monterey Canyon.
Credit: Image © 2017 MBARI
Usage Restrictions: May only be used in conjunction with an article about this research
The Coordinated Canyon Experiment (CCE) was conducted in Monterey Canyon, off the coast of Central California, over an 18-month period between October 2015 and April 2017. During this time, scientists observed and measured at least 16 turbidity currents using dozens of instruments at seven different locations in the canyon. These instruments allowed researchers to track sediment flows over a 50-kilometer stretch of canyon, from depths of about 250 to 1,850 meters.
Using a variety of new instruments and technologies, researchers collected data not just on the movement of water and sediment, but also on the evolution and shape of the seafloor. Physical processes within the flows were monitored at spatial scales ranging from centimeters to kilometers, and over time scales from seconds to months. The resulting data yielded a new and unexpectedly complicated view of a globally important phenomenon that has been studied and modeled for nearly 100 years.
During the experiment, an international team of researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Hull, the University of Southampton, the University of Durham, and the Ocean University of China combined their expertise and equipment. This allowed the team to monitor each turbidity current in unprecedented detail.
The experiment showed that sediment-transport events in Monterey Canyon are more common and much more complex than previously recognized. Rather than simply being flows of sediment-laden water, some turbidity currents also involved large-scale movements of the entire seafloor. Furthermore, many turbidity currents changed character as they moved down-canyon, suggesting that no single flow model can explain all the processes involved.
The researchers were particularly surprised to find that the timing of the 16 monitored turbidity currents did not coincide with commonly-proposed triggers, such as earthquakes or floods, and only a few coincided with extreme surf events. One possible explanation is that sediments build up gradually within and around the edges of Monterey Canyon until they reach some certain threshold, after which turbidity currents can be triggered by relatively small canyon-wall failures.
Of particular interest to geologists searching for oil and gas deposits, the quantitative sediment measurements and detailed seafloor and sub-bottom surveys used in this experiment gave geologists their first opportunity ever to correlate turbidity currents of known magnitude, extent, and duration with large- and small-scale sedimentary structures observed firsthand on the seafloor. After millions of years, these same sedimentary structures sometimes form conduits or traps for oil and gas in sedimentary rocks.
The Coordinated Canyon Experiment yielded many other firsts in the field of marine geology:
Kim Fulton-Bennett | EurekAlert!
AWI researchers measure a record concentration of microplastic in arctic sea ice
24.04.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
Climate change in a warmer-than-modern world: New findings of Kiel Researchers
24.04.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.
Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
24.04.2018 | Information Technology
24.04.2018 | Earth Sciences
24.04.2018 | Life Sciences