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First source-to-sink monitoring shows dense head controls sediment flux and runout in turbidity currents

Pope, Ed L.; Cartigny, Matthieu J.B.; Clare, Michael A.; Talling, Peter J.; Lintern, D. Gwyn; Vellinga, Age; Hage, Sophie; Açikalin, Sanem; Bailey, Lewis; Chapplow, Natasha; Chen, Ye; Eggenhuisen, Joris T.; Hendry, Alison; Heerema, Catharina J.; Heijnen, Maarten; Hubbard, Stephen M.; Hunt, James E.; McGhee, Claire; Parsons, Daniel R.; Simmons, Stephen M.; Stacey, Cooper D.; Vendettuoli, Daniela


Ed L. Pope

Matthieu J.B. Cartigny

Michael A. Clare

Peter J. Talling

D. Gwyn Lintern

Age Vellinga

Sophie Hage

Sanem Açikalin

Lewis Bailey

Natasha Chapplow

Ye Chen

Joris T. Eggenhuisen

Alison Hendry

Catharina J. Heerema

Maarten Heijnen

Stephen M. Hubbard

James E. Hunt

Claire McGhee

Daniel R. Parsons

Cooper D. Stacey

Daniela Vendettuoli


Until recently, despite being one of the most important sediment transport phenomena on Earth, few direct measurements of turbidity currents existed. Consequently, their structure and evolution were poorly understood, particularly whether they are dense or dilute. Here, we analyze the largest number of turbidity currents monitored to date from source to sink. We show sediment transport and internal flow characteristic evolution as they runout. Observed frontal regions (heads) are fast (>1.5 m/s), thin (<10 m), dense (depth averaged concentrations up to 38%vol), strongly stratified, and dominated by grain-to-grain interactions, or slower (<1 m/s), dilute (<0.01%vol), and well mixed with turbulence supporting sediment. Between these end-members, a transitional flow head exists. Flow bodies are typically thick, slow, dilute, and well mixed. Flows with dense heads stretch and bulk up with dense heads transporting up to 1000 times more sediment than the dilute body. Dense heads can therefore control turbidity current sediment transport and runout into the deep sea.


Pope, E. L., Cartigny, M. J., Clare, M. A., Talling, P. J., Lintern, D. G., Vellinga, A., …Vendettuoli, D. (2022). First source-to-sink monitoring shows dense head controls sediment flux and runout in turbidity currents. Science Advances, 8(20), eabj3220.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 4, 2022
Online Publication Date May 18, 2022
Publication Date May 20, 2022
Deposit Date May 20, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 23, 2022
Journal Science advances
Electronic ISSN 2375-2548
Publisher American Association for the Advancement of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 20
Pages eabj3220
Public URL


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Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2022 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC).

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