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Longest sediment flows yet measured show how major rivers connect efficiently to deep sea

Talling, Peter J.; Baker, Megan L.; Pope, Ed L.; Ruffell, Sean C.; Silva Jacinto, Ricardo; Heijnen, Maarten S.; Hage, Sophie; Simmons, Stephen; Hasenhündl, Martin; Heerema, Catharina J.; McGee, Claire; Apprioual, Ronan; Ferrant, Anthony; Cartigny, Matthieu J.B.; Parsons, Daniel R.; Clare, Michael A.; Tshimanga, Raphael; Trigg, Mark A.; Cula, Costa A.; Faria, Rui; Gaillot, Arnaud; Bola, Gode; Wallance, Dec; Griffiths, Allan; Nunny, Robert; Urlaub, Morelia; Peirce, Christine; Burnett, Richard; Neasham, Jeffrey; Hilton, Robert J.


Peter J. Talling

Megan L. Baker

Ed L. Pope

Sean C. Ruffell

Ricardo Silva Jacinto

Maarten S. Heijnen

Sophie Hage

Martin Hasenhündl

Catharina J. Heerema

Claire McGee

Ronan Apprioual

Anthony Ferrant

Matthieu J.B. Cartigny

Daniel R. Parsons

Michael A. Clare

Raphael Tshimanga

Mark A. Trigg

Costa A. Cula

Rui Faria

Arnaud Gaillot

Gode Bola

Dec Wallance

Allan Griffiths

Robert Nunny

Morelia Urlaub

Christine Peirce

Richard Burnett

Jeffrey Neasham

Robert J. Hilton


We document directly for the first time how major river floods connect to the deep-sea, by analysing the longest runout sediment flows (of any type) yet measured in action. These seafloor turbidity currents originated from the Congo River-mouth, with one flow travelling >1,130 km whilst accelerating from 5.2 to 8.0 m/s. In one year, these turbidity currents eroded 1,338-2,675 [>535-1,070] Mt of sediment from one submarine canyon, equivalent to 19-37 [>7-15] % of annual suspended sediment flux from present-day rivers. It was known earthquakes trigger canyon-flushing flows. We show river-floods also generate canyon-flushing flows, primed by rapid sediment-accumulation at the river-mouth, and sometimes triggered by spring tides weeks to months post-flood. This is the first field confirmation that eroding turbidity currents can self-accelerate, thereby travelling much further. These observations explain highly-efficient organic carbon transfer, and have important implications for hazards to seabed cables, or deep-sea impacts of terrestrial climate change.


Talling, P. J., Baker, M. L., Pope, E. L., Ruffell, S. C., Silva Jacinto, R., Heijnen, M. S., …Hilton, R. J. (2022). Longest sediment flows yet measured show how major rivers connect efficiently to deep sea. Nature communications, 13, Article 4193.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 22, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 20, 2022
Publication Date Jul 20, 2022
Deposit Date May 23, 2022
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Nature communications
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Article Number 4193
Public URL
Publisher URL Homepage:


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© The Author(s) 2022.<br /> Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit

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