Episodic fluid escape from marine sediments results from overpressure development and pressure release, and can occur slowly through geologic time or catastrophically. Morphological features in regions of fluid seepage include doming, mud volcanism, cratering, and pockmark formation. Vertical sediment mobilization and surface erosion are considered the principal mechanisms for these topographic changes. However, the impact of mobilization on the geotechnical properties of sediments has not been explicitly considered. Here we develop a one-dimensional numerical subsidence model that incorporates the well-established behavior of remolded fine-grained cohesive sediments. We use this to show that if subsurface overpressure results in the mobilization of sediments, large settlements (20%–35% reduction in volume) can occur when overpressure dissipates. This presents a novel mechanism to explain changes in seafloor and subsurface topography in areas of fluid escape, while highlighting an important interplay between subsurface fluid flow and the geotechnical properties of fine-grained cohesive sediments.

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