Abstract

Multiple turbidity currents were recorded in two submarine canyons with maximum speed as high as 280 cm/s. For each individual turbidity current measured at a fixed station, its depth-averaged velocity typically decreased over time while its thickness increased. Some turbidity currents gained in speed as they traveled downcanyon, suggesting a possible self-accelerating process. The measured velocity profiles, first in this high resolution, allowed normalizations with various schemes. Empirical functions, obtained from laboratory experiments whose spatial and time scales are two to three orders of magnitude smaller, were found to represent the field data fairly well. The best similarity collapse of the velocity profiles was achieved when the streamwise velocity and the elevation were normalized respectively by the depth-averaged velocity and the turbidity current thickness. This normalization scheme can be generalized to an empirical function Y = exp(–αXβ) for the jet region above the velocity maximum. Confirming theoretical arguments and laboratory results of other studies, the field turbidity currents are Froude-supercritical.

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