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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Dr Matthieu Cartigny

Hizzett, J. L., Hughes Clarke, J. E., Sumner, E. J., Cartigny, M. J. B., Talling, P. J. & Clare, M. A. (2018). Which triggers produce the most erosive, frequent and longest runout turbidity currents on deltas? Geophysical Research Letters 45(2): 855-863.

Author(s) from Durham


Subaerial rivers and turbidity currents are the two most voluminous sediment transport processes on our planet, and it is important to understand how they are linked offshore from river mouths. Previously it was thought that slope failures or direct plunging of river flood water (hyperpycnal flow) dominated the triggering of turbidity currents on delta-fronts. Here we re-analyse the most detailed time-lapse monitoring yet of a submerged delta; comprising 93 surveys of the Squamish Delta in British Columbia, Canada. We show that most turbidity currents are triggered by settling of sediment from dilute surface river plumes, rather than landslides or hyperpycnal flows. Turbidity currents triggered by settling plumes occur frequently, run out as far as landslide-triggered events, and cause the greatest changes to delta and lobe morphology. For the first time, we show that settling from surface plumes can dominate the triggering of hazardous submarine flows and offshore sediment fluxes.