Silled sub-basins to connected tortuous corridors: sediment distribution systems on topographically complex sub-aqueous slopes
Ru Smith, 2004. "Silled sub-basins to connected tortuous corridors: sediment distribution systems on topographically complex sub-aqueous slopes", Confined Turbidite Systems, S. A. Lomas, P. Joseph
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Two end-member classes of sediment distribution systems on topographically complex slopes are distinguished here: (a) cascades of silled sub-basins, and (b) connected tortuous corridors. In the first scenario a process of filling and spilling of successive silled sub-basins down a slope occurs. For each sub-basin a sill tends to hinder further downslope flow of at least the basal sandy portions of sediment gravity flows until deposition reduces the relief sufficiently to allow spill down-slope. Spill is associated with incision in the sill. In the connected tortuous corridors scenario, flows avoid bathymetric obstacles, but follow a (laterally confined) continuous tortuous path down the slope. Without complete three-dimensional imaging of slope architecture it can be possible to incorrectly infer from two-dimensional profiles a cascade of silled sub-basins model. Thus flow paths in adjacent apparent subbasins can be connected out of the plane of section. Convergent thinning and convergent baselap stratal patterns occur in both scenarios, but only in the silled sub-basin case do such patterns occur against closing frontal slopes. For a given complex slope morphology, dominant controls on fill patterns and reservoir architecture are (a) the history of sediment supply character, and (b) rates of structure growth relative to rates of smoothing of topography by erosional and depositional processes. Two particularly important aspects of sediment supply are (i) flow volumes relative to scales of receiving spaces, and (ii) flow properties (in particular, transported grain size distribution, flow thickness and flow concentration), these controlling depositional gradients and the equilibrium profiles to which slopes tend to grade.