What causes large submarine landslides on low gradient (<2°) continental slopes with slow (~0.15m/ky) sediment accumulation?

Urlaub, Morelia; Talling, Peter; Zervos, Antonis; Masson, Douglas. 2015 What causes large submarine landslides on low gradient (<2°) continental slopes with slow (~0.15m/ky) sediment accumulation? Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 120 (10). 6722-6739.

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Submarine landslides can cause damaging tsunamis, the height of which scales up with the volume of the displaced mass. The largest underwater landslides are far bigger than any landslides on land, and these submarine mega-slides tend to occur on open continental slopes with remarkably low gradients of less than 2°. For geohazard assessments it is essential to understand what preconditions and triggers slope failure on such low gradients. Previous work has suggested that generation of high excess pore pressure due to rapid sediment deposition plays a key role in such failures. However, submarine slope failure also occurs where sedimentation rates are low (<0.15 m/ky), such as off north-west Africa. We use a fully coupled stress and fluid flow finite element model to test whether such low sedimentation rates can generate sufficient excess pore pressures to cause failure of a 2° slope. The sensitivity of overpressure generation and slope stability is assessed with respect to different sedimentation rates and patterns, sediment consolidation properties and stratigraphic layer configurations. The simulations show that in general it is difficult to generate significant excess pore pressure if sediment accumulation is slow and the only pressure source. However, we identify a sediment compression behavior that can lead to submarine landslides in locations worldwide. Our results imply that compressibility is an important factor for the stability of low gradient continental slopes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 2169-9356
Additional Keywords: Submarine Landslide; Overpressure; Fluid Flow; Finite Element Modeling; Slope Stability; Compressibility
Date made live: 14 Sep 2015 11:05 +0 (UTC)

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