Geodynamics and Basin Studies

Quantitative Geomorphology of Submarine Channel Networks on Continental Margins

Recent progress in quantitative subaerial geomorphology, coupled with the numerous, high resolution marine geophysical and geological datasets, becoming widely available along continental margins, now suggests major progress can be made at analysing and understanding the margin-scale characteristics and controls on submarine channel and canyon systems.

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Whereas previous studies have focused largely on long-profile geometry of individual channels, this study will quantify both long-profile and planform geometry at the margin scale.  The proposed research will involve adapting methods originally developed and widely applied in subaerial geomorphology for characterizing river network geometry, to analyze submarine channel systems and the margins on which they occur.  These methods can potentially summarise the complexity of submarine channel and network geometry with a range of parameters, such as a measure of their steepness and concave shapes of their longitudinal profiles, and the branching geometry of upslope tributaries and distributary networks on lobes and splays.  The analysis generated will provide clues to the processes controlling the location, geometry and evolution of submarine channel networks and margin morphology.  To evaluate whether channel network parameters can be exploited as a predictive tool, these parameters will be mapped out along continental margins to investigate their variability, and if and how they are controlled by environmental parameters (such as steepness of the slope and the texture of sediments fed by local rivers or other sources) and local to regional slope tectonics.


Researchers working on this project:

Rob Gawthorpe

Neil Mitchell (UoM)

Dina Vachtman (UiB/UoM)