Ten turbidite myths

Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
Get full text


During the past 50 years, the turbidite paradigm has promoted many myths related to deep-water turbidite deposition. John E. Sanders (1926-1999), a pioneering process sedimentologist, first uncovered many of these turbidite myths. This paper provides a reality check by undoing 10 of these turbidite myths. Myth No. 1: turbidity currents are non-turbulent flows with multiple sediment-support mechanisms. Reality: turbidity currents are turbulent flows in which turbulence is the principal sediment-support mechanism. Myth No. 2: turbidites are deposits of debris flows, grain flows, fluidized flows, and turbidity currents. Reality: turbidites are exclusive deposits of turbidity currents. Myth No. 3: turbidity currents are high-velocity flows and therefore they elude documentation. Reality: turbidity currents operate under a wide range of velocity conditions. Myth No. 4: high-density turbidity currents are true turbidity currents. Reality: Ph. H. Kuenen (1950) introduced the concept of "turbidity currents of high density" based on experimental debris flows, not turbidity currents. High-density turbidity currents are sandy debris flows. Myth No. 5: slurry flows are high-density turbidity currents. Reality: slurry-flows are debris flows. Myth No. 6: flute structures are indicative of turbidite deposition. Reality: flute structures are indicative only of flow erosion, not deposition. Myth No. 7: normal grading is a product of multiple depositional events. Reality: normal grading is the product of a single depositional event. Myth No. 8: cross-bedding is a product of turbidity currents. Reality: cross-bedding is a product of traction deposition from bottom currents. Myth No. 9: turbidite facies models are useful tools for interpreting deposits of turbidity currents. Reality: a reexamination of the Annot Sandstone in SE France, which served as the basis for developing the first turbidite facies model, suggests a complex depositional origin by plastic flows and bottom currents. Myth No. 10: turbidite facies can be interpreted using seismic facies and geometries. Reality: individual turbidity-current depositional events, commonly centimeters to decimeters in thickness, cannot be resolved in seismic data. All turbidite myths promote falsehood and should be abandoned. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.




Shanmugam, G. (2002). Ten turbidite myths. Earth-Science Reviews, 58(3–4), 311–341. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0012-8252(02)00065-X

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free