Abstract

Conventionally, turbidity currents are considered as fluidal flows in which sediment is supported by fluid turbulence, whereas debris flows are plastic flows in which sediment is supported by matrix strength, dispersive pressure, and buoyant lift. The concept of high-density turbidity current refers to high-concentration, commonly nonturbulent, flows of fluids in which sediment is supported mainly by matrix strength, dispersive pressure, and buoyant lift. The conventional wisdom that traction carpets with entrained turbulent clouds on top represent high-density turbidity currents is a misnomer because traction carpets are neither fluidal nor turbulent. Debris flows may also have entrained turbulent clouds on top. The traction carpet/debris flow and the overriding turbulent clouds are two separate entities in terms of flow rheology and sediment-support mechanism. In experimental and theoretical studies, which has linked massive sands and floating clasts to high-density turbidity currents, the term "high-density turbidity current" has actually been used for laminar flows. In alleviating this conceptual problem, sandy debris flow is suggested as a substitute for high-density turbidity current. Sandy debris flows represent a continuous spectrum of processes between cohesive and cohesionless debris flows. Commonly they are rheologically plastic. They may occur with or without entrained turbulent clouds on top. Their sediment-support mechanisms include matrix strength, dispersive pressure, and buoyant lift. They are characterized by laminar flow conditions, a moderate to high grain concentration, and a low to moderate mud content. Although flows evolve and transform during the course of transport in density-stratified flows, the preserved features in a deposit are useful to decipher only the final stages of deposition. At present, there are no established criteria to decipher transport mechanisms from the depositional record.

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