A multi-disciplinary investigation of the AFEN Slide: The relationship between contourites and submarine landslides

Gatter, Ricarda; Clare, Michael A. ORCID:; Hunt, James E.; Watts, Millie; Madhusudhan, B. N.; Talling, Peter J.; Huhn, Katrin. 2020 A multi-disciplinary investigation of the AFEN Slide: The relationship between contourites and submarine landslides. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 500. 173-193.

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Contourite drifts are sediment deposits formed by ocean bottom currents on continental slopes worldwide. Although it has become increasingly apparent that contourites are often prone to slope failure, the physical controls on slope instability remain unclear. This study presents high-resolution sedimentological, geochemical and geotechnical analyses of sediments to better understand the physical controls on slope failure that occurred within a sheeted contourite drift within the Faroe-Shetland Channel. We aim to identify and characterize the failure plane of the late Quaternary landslide (the AFEN Slide), and explain its location within the sheeted drift stratigraphy. The analyses reveal abrupt lithological contrasts characterized by distinct changes in physical, geochemical and geotechnical properties. Our findings indicate that the AFEN Slide likely initiated along a distinct lithological interface, between overlying sandy contouritic sediments and softer underlying mud-rich sediments. These lithological contrasts are interpreted to relate to climatically-controlled variations in sediment input and bottom current intensity. Similar lithological contrasts are likely to be common within contourite drifts at many other oceanic gateways worldwide; hence our findings are likely to apply more widely. As we demonstrate here, recognition of such contrasts requires multi-disciplinary data over the depth range of stratigraphy that is potentially prone to slope failure.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0305-8719
Date made live: 26 Apr 2020 14:44 +0 (UTC)

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