The Influence of Subtle Gradient Changes on Deep-Water Gravity Flows: A Case Study From the Moroccan Turbidite System

TitleThe Influence of Subtle Gradient Changes on Deep-Water Gravity Flows: A Case Study From the Moroccan Turbidite System
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWynn, RB, Talling, PJ, Masson, DG, Le Bas, TP, Cronin, BT, Stevenson, CJ
EditorPrather, BE, Deptuck, ME, Mohrig, D, Van Hoorn, B, Wynn, RB
Book TitleApplication of the Principles of Seismic Geomorphology to Continental-Slope and Base-of-Slope Systems: Case Studies from Seafloor and Near-Seafloor Analogues
Series TitleSEPM Special Publication
Series Volume99
PublisherSEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology
CityTulsa, OK
KeywordsTurbidity current gravity flow channel deep-water slope gradient Morocco

The Moroccan Turbidite System is unique in that individual gravity-flow deposits can be correlated across distances of several hundred kilometers, both within and between depositional basins. An extensive dataset of shallow sediment cores is analyzed here, in order to investigate the influence of gradient changes on individual siliciclastic gravity flows passing through this system in the last 160,000 years. The largest flows (deposit volumes > 100 km3) are capable of travelling for more than 1000 km across slopes of less than 0.1°. The deposits of these flows display significant lateral heterogeneity as a consequence of changes in seafloor gradient. Increases in gradient can lead to sediment bypass and/or erosion, and unconfined flows may become channelized. Decreases in gradient can lead to significant changes in sand?mud ratio and the deposition of thick mud caps, while small-volume flow deposits may pinch out completely. One of the largest flows shows evidence for multiple transformations as it crossed the Agadir Basin, with the resulting deposits switching laterally from (1) a gravel lag and cut-and-fill scours (representing bypass and erosion across a slope of 0.05°, to (2) a thick linked turbidite?debrite bed containing a muddy sand debrite (in response to a decrease in slope to < 0.01°), to (3) a normally graded turbidite (following a subtle increase in slope to 0.02°). Although the changes in slope angle described here appear remarkably subtle, the relative changes in slope are significant, and clearly exert a major control on flow behavior. Such variations in slope would not be detectable in outcrop or subsurface sequences, yet will generate significant complexity in deep-water reservoirs.