Longest sediment flows yet measured show how major rivers connect efficiently to deep sea

Type Article
Date 2022-07
Language English
Author(s) Talling Peter J.ORCID1, Baker Megan L.ORCID2, Pope Ed L.ORCID2, Ruffell Sean C.ORCID3, Jacinto Ricardo Silva4, Heijnen Maarten S.5, 6, Hage SophieORCID7, 8, Simmons Stephen M.ORCID9, Hasenhündl MartinORCID10, Heerema Catharina J.3, McGhee Claire11, Apprioual Ronan4, Ferrant Anthony4, Cartigny Matthieu J. B.ORCID2, Parsons Daniel R.ORCID9, Clare Michael A.ORCID, Tshimanga Raphael M.12, Trigg Mark A.13, Cula Costa A.14, Faria Rui14, Gaillot Arnaud4, Bola Gode12, Wallance Dec15, Griffiths Allan16, Nunny RobertORCID17, Urlaub MoreliaORCID18, Peirce ChristineORCID3, Burnett Richard19, Neasham Jeffrey19, Hilton Robert J.20
Affiliation(s) 1 : Departments of Geography and Earth Science, Durham University, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK
2 : Department of Geography, Durham University, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK
3 : Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK
4 : Marine Geosciences Unit, IFREMER Centre de Brest, Plouzané, France
5 : National Oceanography Centre Southampton, SO14 3ZH, Southampton, UK
6 : School of Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, UK
7 : University of Brest, CNRS, IFREMER, Geo-Ocean, 29280, Plouzané, France
8 : Department of Geosciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4, Canada
9 : Energy and Environment Institute, University of Hull, Hull, HU6 7RX, UK
10 : Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management, TU Wien, 1040, Vienna, Austria
11 : School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
12 : Congo Basin Water Resources Research Center (CRREBaC) and Department of Natural Resources Management, University of Kinshasa (UNIKIN), Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
13 : School of Civil Engineering, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS3 9JT, UK
14 : Angola Cables SA, Cellwave Building 2nd Floor Via AL5, Zona XR6B, Talatona-Luanda, Angola
15 : Subsea Centre of Excellence Technology, BT, London, UK
16 : O&M Submarine Engineering, Vodaphone Group, Leeds, UK
17 : Ambios, 1 Hexton Road, Glastonbury, Somerset, BA6 8HL, UK
18 : GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Wischhofstraße 1-3, 24148, Kiel, Germany
19 : School of Engineering, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
20 : Department of Earth Sciences, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3AN, UK
Source Nature Communications (2041-1723) (Springer Science and Business Media LLC), 2022-07 , Vol. 13 , N. 1 , P. 4193 (15p.)
DOI 10.1038/s41467-022-31689-3
WOS© Times Cited 20

Here we show how major rivers can efficiently connect to the deep-sea, by analysing the longest runout sediment flows (of any type) yet measured in action on Earth. These seafloor turbidity currents originated from the Congo River-mouth, with one flow travelling >1,130 km whilst accelerating from 5.2 to 8.0 m/s. In one year, these turbidity currents eroded 1,338-2,675 [>535-1,070] Mt of sediment from one submarine canyon, equivalent to 19–37 [>7–15] % of annual suspended sediment flux from present-day rivers. It was known earthquakes trigger canyon-flushing flows. We show river-floods also generate canyon-flushing flows, primed by rapid sediment-accumulation at the river-mouth, and sometimes triggered by spring tides weeks to months post-flood. It is demonstrated that strongly erosional turbidity currents self-accelerate, thereby travelling much further, validating a long-proposed theory. These observations explain highly-efficient organic carbon transfer, and have important implications for hazards to seabed cables, or deep-sea impacts of terrestrial climate change.

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Talling Peter J., Baker Megan L., Pope Ed L., Ruffell Sean C., Jacinto Ricardo Silva, Heijnen Maarten S., Hage Sophie, Simmons Stephen M., Hasenhündl Martin, Heerema Catharina J., McGhee Claire, Apprioual Ronan, Ferrant Anthony, Cartigny Matthieu J. B., Parsons Daniel R., Clare Michael A., Tshimanga Raphael M., Trigg Mark A., Cula Costa A., Faria Rui, Gaillot Arnaud, Bola Gode, Wallance Dec, Griffiths Allan, Nunny Robert, Urlaub Morelia, Peirce Christine, Burnett Richard, Neasham Jeffrey, Hilton Robert J. (2022). Longest sediment flows yet measured show how major rivers connect efficiently to deep sea. Nature Communications, 13(1), 4193 (15p.). Publisher's official version : https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-31689-3 , Open Access version : https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00786/89837/