Contourites of the Nova Scotian continental rise and the HEBBLE area
Published:January 01, 2002
I. N. McCave, R. C. Chandler, S. A. Swift, B. E. Tucholke, 2002. "Contourites of the Nova Scotian continental rise and the HEBBLE area", Deep-Water Contourite Systems: Modern Drifts and Ancient Series, Seismic and Sedimentary Characteristics, D. A. V. Stow, C. J. Pudsey, J. A. Howe, J.-C. Faugères, A. R. Viana
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The Nova Scotian continental rise is swept by a Deep Western Boundary Current system comprising layers of Labrador Sea Water overlying a core of Norwegian Sea Overflow Water at depths of 3100-3900 m, and below about 4600 m a cold stream of southern-source water. Seismic-reflection data show that the rise contains sediments transported downslope in channels and debris lobes, but there is also evidence of current-controlled deposition and erosion in the post-Eocene sequence. The rise is now mantled by Holocene contourites that have accumulated at a rate of c. 6 cm ka−1 and are <1 m thick. Bottom photographs show a zonation in current effects and bedform types, with longitudinal ripples and strong currents prevalent at 4800-5000 m, smaller bedforms and progressively weaker currents up to c. 4000 m, and mostly tranquil seafloor above 4000 m. Bedform scales and orientations also suggest significant short-term (hours to weeks) variability in current velocity but a mean contour-following flow to the southwest at longer time scales (months to years). These structures are not preserved in the sediment because of pervasive bioturbation and the uppermost layers have negligible preservation potential. The sediments display clear current controlled effects in their grain-size structure involving both percentage of (foraminiferal) sand, and size and percentage in the 10-63 µm range, the ‘sortable silt’. There is a sand-rich zone at 4800–4900 m and below 5000 m, and a decreasing silt/clay ratio from 5100 m up to 4000 m. Although much of the sedimentary sequence probably has been emplaced by downslope processes, it has been significantly modified by the Deep Western Boundary Current. Particularly strong and variable currents which rework sediments below c. 4800 m probably are engendered by interaction of Gulf Stream eddies with the DWBC. Although strong currents and upstream input from turbidites and debris flows might be thought to favour a coarse-grained deposit, the facies at the HEBBLE (High Energy Benthic Boundary Layer Experiment) site is muddy contourite with ≤ 12% sand.
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Deep-Water Contourite Systems: Modern Drifts and Ancient Series, Seismic and Sedimentary Characteristics
Countourites are a widespread but poorly known group of sediments linked to the action of powerful bottom currents in deep water. Although we know they are especially common along continental margins and through oceanic gateways, they have been surrounded by contoversy since they were first recognized in the early 1960s. Where correctly recognized and decoded they can provide one of the keys to our better understanding of bottom water circulation and of the ocean–climate link. They are part of the spectrum of deposits that confronts the oil industry as exploration moves into progressively greater water depths.
This memoir is an important outcome of the International Geological Correlation Project 432 on Bottom Currents, Contourites and Palaeocirculation. It includes 30 papers involving over 75 key scientists from around the world. Following an introductory state–of–the–art paper by the editors, there are 25 separate case studies on modern drifts and four on ancient contourite series. Each contribution highlights the specific geological and oceanographic setting, bathymetry, physiographic and stratigraphic context, seismic attributes and sedimentary characteristics of that drift. Case studies range from some of the well-documented North Atlantic drifts to those much less known from the Mediterrenean, from important syntheses of the Gulf of Cadiz and Vema Channel Gateway, to completely new data on South Atlantic, Pacific and Antartic margin systems. The four papers on ancient series from Japan, China and Cyprus serve to emphasise the complex nature and subtle characteristics of contourites, which make their identification a scientific challenge.
This volume is dedicated to the memory of Charlie Hollister (1936–1999), one of the founding fathers and pioneers of countourite research.