Giant submarine canyons : Is size any clue to their importance in the rock record ?

  • Normark W
  • Carlson P
  • Survey U
 et al. 
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Abstract

Erstand the potential importance in the rock record of any given submarine can- yon, it is necessary to understand sediment-transport processes in, as well as knowl- edge of, deep-sea turbidite and related deposits that moved through the canyons. There is no straightforward correlation between the final volume of the sedimentary deposits and size of the associated submarine canyons. Comparison of selected mod- ern submarine canyons together with their deposits emphasizes the wide range of scale differences between canyons and their impact on the rock record. Three of the largest submarine canyons in the world are incised into the Beringian (North American) margin of the Bering Sea. Zhemchug Canyon has the largest cross-section at the shelf break and greatest volume of incision of slope and shelf. The Bering Canyon, which is farther south in the Bering Sea, is first in length and total area. In contrast, the largest submarine fanse.g., Bengal, Indus, and Amazonhave substantially smaller, delta-front submarine canyons that feed them; their submarine drainage areas are one-third to less than one-tenth the area of Bering Canyon. Some very large deep-sea channels and turbidite deposits are not even associ- ated with a significant submarine canyon; examples include Horizon Channel in the northeast Pacific and Laurentian Fan Valley in the North Atlantic. Available data sug- gest that the size of turbidity currents (as determined by volume of sediment trans- ported to the basins) is also not a reliable indicator of submarine canyon size.

Author-supplied keywords

  • submarine canyons
  • submarine fans
  • submarine mass wasting
  • turbidite systems
  • turbidity currents

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Authors

  • William R Normark

  • Paul R Carlson

  • U S Geological Survey

  • Middlefield Road

  • Menlo Park

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