Sediment waves on the monterey fan levee: A preliminary physical interpretation

William R. Normark, Gordon R. Hess, D.A.V. Stow, A.J. Bowen

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172 Citations (Scopus)


Sediment waves on the deep ocean floor occur mostly on the lower continental rise on slopes of 1° or less. Previous studies show that their amplitude and wavelength vary greatly, but little is known about their shape in plan. A detailed survey of a 30-km2 area of abyssal-depth sediment waves associated with the levee of the Monterey fan valley shows a pattern of sinuous crests and troughs with parallel, well-bedded internal structure. Material in the upper 1 m of sediment consists predominantly of bioturbated, muddy coccolith ooze. A single thin, silty horizon can be correlated between adjoining waves.
On the basis of measured wave dimensions and an estimate of flow velocity we use a simple two-layer model for water movement to infer approximate flow parameters. The sediment waves are considered to be formed most likely by low-velocity (10 cm/s), low-concentration turbidity flows approximately 100–800 m thick. This interpretation emphasizes the role of low-speed, low-concentration turbidity currents in the downslope movement of fine-grained material. This type of transport—deposition regime explains the formation of sediment waves very well except for certain waves occurring on depositional ridges in the deep ocean.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1980


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