Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 13 Issue 03

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Volume 13, No. 3
Pages 109 - 117


On the Dynamics of Subaqueous Debris Flows

Anders Elverhøi Carl B. HarbitzPanagiotis DimakisDavid MohrigJeff Marl Gary Parker
First Paragraph

Turbidity currents and debris flows represent the most prominent processes of sediment transport from the shallow shelf waters into the deep ocean. These gravity driven flows are capable of transporting large quantities of sediment over long distances (Middleton and Hampton, 1976; Hampton et al., 1996). Submarine debris flows are commonly thought to be laminar flows moving downslope as an agglomeration of particles held together by a thick sediment matrix composed mainly of silt, clay, and water (cohesive material). Turbidity currents are thought to operate at much lower sediment concentrations than debris flows, with the grains in a turbidity current held in suspension by turbulence. Turbidity currents have long been considered as the more important of the two. Consequently a number of deep sea fan models have been proposed based on the concept that turbidity currents transport gravel, sand and mud from shelf areas downslope through submarine canyons and channels and onto the basin plain. Recently however, the importance of debris flows as a major sediment mass transfer mechanism have been demonstrated for the case of the Norwegian- Barents Sea margin, where deep sea fans largely consisting of debris flows are found to be comparable in sediment volume to some of the world’s largest turbidite fans (Elverhoi et al., 1998). Similar debris flows are also found on other glaciated margins (Aksu and Hiscott, 1992).


Elverhøi, A., C.B. Harbitz, P. Dimakis, D. Mohrig, J. Marr, and G. Parker. 2000. On the dynamics of subaqueous debris flows. Oceanography 13(3):109–117, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2000.20.

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