Predicting when turbidity currents are erosional or depositional (i.e., leaving no depositional record versus leaving a deposit) remains challenging. Here we combine observations from submarine channel morphology with a new sediment transport model to derive thresholds for net erosional, equilibrium, or net depositional flow to predict how far turbidity currents can transport different grain size classes down the channel. The approach was applied to the modern Madden and Omakere Channels, which traverse the Hikurangi subduction margin of the North Island of New Zealand. A bathymetric data set was used to establish the downstream change of channel geometry. Taking account of centripetal and Coriolis forces, the flow superelevation method was used to estimate variations in flow velocity and concentration along the channels. These parameters were used as model inputs to estimate the potential distribution of sand in the system assuming the separate cases of well-sorted and poorly-sorted sediment in suspension. The predicted sand distribution maps deposited by poorly-sorted flows in the channels show good agreement with root mean square amplitude mapping of the seafloor. These results confirm that thicker flows, and those carrying well-sorted suspensions, can bypass sediment over lower slopes than thinner flows and those carrying more poorly-sorted suspensions. The net erosion and net deposition thresholds derived from this study may help to guide and constrain predictions of potential sediment bypass zones in seafloor and subsurface systems and hence better constrain the predicted loci of deposition.

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