The channel-lobe transition zone (CLTZ) is an important, but commonly overlooked, element of many deep-water turbidite systems. Recognizing this zone is difficult in both modern and ancient environments and depends largely on the quality and resolution of the data obtained. In this article, three case studies of modern CLTZs are presented, largely based on high-resolution side-scan sonar imagery. These data are then compared to other well-defined CLTZs, both modern and ancient, and the common characteristics identified.
CLTZs occur at canyon/channel mouths and are commonly associated with a break of slope. Most sediment bypasses this zone, and consequently only coarse sands and gravels are deposited, although these are commonly patchily distributed and extensively reworked. The CLTZ is characterized by abundant erosional features, including isolated spoon- and chevron-shaped scours up to 20 m deep, 2 km wide, and 2.5 km long. In areas of more widespread erosion, these merge to form amalgamated scours several kilometers across. Depositional bed forms include sediment waves with wavelengths of 1-2 km and wave heights up to 4 m. The presence or absence of a CLTZ has important implications for hydrocarbon exploration and development, especially in terms of the connectivity between sandy channel-fill and lobe facies.