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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Dr Matthieu Cartigny

de Leeuw, Jan, Eggenhuisen, Joris T. & Cartigny, Matthieu J. B. (2018). Linking submarine channel-levee facies and architecture to flow structure of turbidity currents: insights from flume tank experiments. Sedimentology 65(3): 931-951.

Author(s) from Durham


Submarine leveed channels are sculpted by turbidity currents that are commonly highly stratified. Both the concentration and the grain size decrease upward in the flow, and this is a fundamental factor that affects the location and grain size of deposits around a channel. This study presents laboratory experiments that link the morphological evolution of a progressively developing leveed channel to the suspended sediment structure of the turbidity currents. Previously, it was difficult to link turbidity current structure to channel–levee development because observations from natural systems were limited to the depositional products while experiments did not show realistic morphodynamics due to scaling issues related to the sediment transport. This study uses a novel experimental approach to overcome scaling issues, which results in channel inception and evolution on an initially featureless slope. Depth of the channel increased continuously as a result of levee aggradation combined with varying rates of channel floor aggradation and degradation. The resulting levees are fining upward and the grain‐size trend in the levee matches the upward decrease in grain size in the flow. It is shown that such deposit trends can result from internal channel dynamics and do not have to reflect upstream forcing. The suspended sediment structure can also be linked to the lateral transition from sediment bypass in the channel thalweg to sediment deposition on the levees. The transition occurs because the sediment concentration is below the flow capacity in the channel thalweg, while higher up on the channel walls the concentration exceeds capacity resulting in deposition of the inner levee. Thus, a framework is provided to predict the growth pattern and facies of a levee from the suspended sediment structure in a turbidity current.