Abyssal current influence on the southwest Bermuda Rise and surrounding region

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Marine Geology
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Echograms (3.5 kHz) and bottom photographs reveal that the northward flowing Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) has strongly influenced the modern depositional regime on the southwest Bermuda Rise. The spatial distribution of echo character types, the orientation and nature of current-controlled structures, and limited current meter data show that AABW flows with varying intensities along three primary pathways around and over the southwest Bermuda Rise. The main core of AABW flows clockwise around the eastern and western flanks of the southern Bermuda Rise, roughly parallel to the 5400 m isobath. This current bifurcates at 28 degrees 30'N, 69 degrees W where a portion flows northeast over the southwest Bermuda Rise and the remainder continues north along the physiographic boundary between the southwest Bermuda Rise and the Hatteras Abyssal Plain. Secondary ribbons of AABW branch off the main core of AABW during its southerly journey along the southeastern Bermuda Rise, and flow west through fracture zones. Finally, a diffuse, northward flowing AABW sweeps the entire southwest Bermuda Rise.A progression of current-controlled bedforms occurs beneath the main path of the AABW reflecting the spatially varying current velocities and sediment supply. The main core of AABW flows west through the narrow Vema Gap creating erosional furrows along the border between the southwest Bermuda Rise and the Vema Gap. Current velocities greater than 20 cm s(-1) are inferred from the bedforms in this region. Farther north along the southwestern edge of the Bermuda Rise, sediment waves become more prevalent. This transition from erosional to more depositional bedforms results from diminished current velocities (5-15 cm s(-1)) and increased sediment supply. Although some of these bedforms on the southwest Bermuda Rise appear to be relict, their orientation is consistent with current meter data and abyssal current direction inferred from bottom photographs.


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