Abstract

Although recent work has shown that changing interstitial fluid density within turbidity currents is a frequently overlooked factor affecting the texture and internal architecture of turbidites, little is known about its influence on submarine fan morphology. Here we present the results of three-dimensional flume experiments of turbidity currents that clearly demonstrate the role of low-density interstitial fluid, in combination with sediment concentration and basin gradient, on submarine fan geometry. The experiments show that turbidity currents with reversing buoyancy, and their resulting deposits, are narrower than those that remain ground hugging. Furthermore, wider deposits result from increases in sediment concentration and/or basin-floor gradient. We also propose that Taylor-Görtler vortices associated with currents traveling over a break in slope may lead to the deposition of wider lobes compared with those traveling over a constant gradient.

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