The objective of the STRATAFORM program of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is to understand how the stratigraphy of continental shelves and continental slopes is created and preserved by the processes operative in these environments. On continental slopes, the dominant processes that affect the stratigraphic record are gravity driven and commonly involve mass movements of sediments by creep, slumps, slides, debris flows, and/or turbidity currents. Collectively these processes are a major force in sculpting continental slope morphology, creating such features as failure scars and submarine canyons. The processes are episodic and tend to be localized. Their occurrence dictates where sediment is preserved on continental slopes and where it is not. The unconformable surfaces they erode are complex, discontinuous and asynchronous, complicating the interpretation of continental slope stratigraphy, particularly as it relates to past environmental changes such as fluctuations in sea level. A goal of STRATAFORM is to develop models that can aid in predicting where and how mass movements could occur, and what role these events play in continental-slope evolution. To meet this goal, project members are pursuing several key objectives in studying the New Jersey and northern California continental slopes. These objectives are to:
• Quantify the causes of slope failure;
• Document the mechanics and progression of mass movements spawned by slope failure;
• Determine how mass movements link to slope morphology and stratigraphy.