Overpressure and slope stability in prograding clinoforms: Implications for marine morphodynamics

Journal Article

Rapid deposition of fine-grained sediments can lead to overpressure buildup along the fronts of prograding sedimentary bodies (clinoforms) ranging from deltas to continental margins. Overpressure reduces shear strength, which can lead to failure of submarine slopes, so that overpressure prediction is potentially of fundamental importance to marine morphodynamics. We generalize one-dimensional overpressure theory to migrating clinoforms where deposition is highly localized in space and time, and show that overpressure is characterized by a dimensionless loading intensity, the Gibson number (given by the product of sediment supply and slope, divided by sediment hydraulic diffusivity). Our results show that compared to terrestrial slopes, slope stability in overpressured clinoforms is especially sensitive to foreset steepness, which directly affects loading intensity. The utility of our theory is demonstrated by application to modern and ancient clinoforms with documented slope failures. This analysis suggests that (1) most muddy clinoforms will have significant overpressure, (2) many delta fronts and continental margins prograde at a limiting slope threshold for deep-seated landsliding, and (3) shallow overpressure and near-surface liquefaction may contribute to mobilization of fluid muds which actively prograde subaqueous deltas. We derive quantitative relationships between sediment supply and slope for clinoforms prograding at limiting equilibrium. Importantly, our results suggest that slope is an inverse function of sediment supply in these systems, implying that commonly used diffusive morphodynamics approaches may be inappropriate. Copyright 2007 by the American Geophysical Union.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wolinsky, MA; Pratson, LF

Published Date

  • 2007

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 112 / 4

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2169-9011

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1029/2007JF000770