We present results from a sandbox experiment designed to investigate how sediment gravity flows form and shape submarine canyons. In the experiment, unconfined saline gravity flows were released onto an inclined sand bed bounded on the downstream end by a movable floor that was used to increase relief during the experiment. In areas unaffected by the flows, we observed featureless, angle-of-repose submarine slopes formed by retrogressive breaching processes. In contrast, areas influenced by gravity flows cascading across the shelf break were deeply incised by submarine canyons with well-developed channel networks. Normalized canyon long profiles extracted from successive high-resolution digital elevation models collapse to a single profile when referenced to the migrating shelf-slope break, indicating self-similar growth in the relief defined by the canyon and intercanyon profiles. Although our experimental approach is simple, the resulting canyon morphology and behavior appear similar in several important respects to that observed in the field.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)