Clinoform development by advection-diffusion of suspended sediment: Modeling and comparison to natural systems

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Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth
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Oct 10
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Clinoforms are the building blocks of prograding stratigraphic sequences. These sigmoid-shaped surfaces can be found forming today on modern deltas. Sedimentation rate profiles over the clinoform surface of these deltas show low rates of sediment accumulation on both topset and bottomset regions, with a maximum accumulation rate on the upper foreset region. We present a model for the formation of clinoforms that relies on the interpretation of modem clinoform sedimentation as a result of the distribution of shear stresses at the mouth of a river. Model clinoform surfaces are generated using an equation for the conservation of suspended sediment concentration, together with a conservation of fluid equation for simple time-averaged flow velocity fields. In the model, suspended sediment is advected horizontally into a basin, and gravitational settling of sediment particles is counteracted by vertical turbulent diffusion. In shallow water, shear stresses are too large to allow deposition, and sediment bypasses the topset region. With increasing water depth, near-bed shear stresses decrease, and sediment is allowed to deposit at the foreset region, with gradually decreasing rates toward deeper water. This sedimentation pattern leads to progradation of the clinoform surfaces through time. The clinoform surfaces produced by the model capture the fundamental morphological characteristics of natural clinoforms. These include the gradual slope rollover at the topset and bottomset, steeper foreset slopes with increased grain size, and an increase in foreset slope through time as clinoforms prograde into deeper water. Because the parameters controlling the model clinoforms have a direct relation to physical quantities that can be measured in natural systems, the model is an important step toward unraveling the physical processes associated with these deposits.


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