Long-range sediment transport in the world’s oceans by stably stratified turbidity currents

Benjamin Kneller, Mohamad M. Nasr-Azadani, Senthil Radhakrishnan, Eckart Meiburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Submarine fans, supplied primarily by turbidity currents, constitute the largest sediment accumulations on Earth. Generally accepted models of turbidity current behavior imply they should dissipate rapidly on the very small gradients of submarine fans, thus their persistence over long distances is enigmatic. We present numerical evidence, constrained by published field data, suggesting that turbidity currents traveling on low slopes and carrying fine particles have a stably stratified shear layer along their upper interface, which dramatically reduces dissipation and entrainment of ambient fluid, allowing the current to propagate over long distances. We propose gradient Richardson number as a useful criterion to discriminate between the different behaviors exhibited by turbidity currents on high and low slopes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8608-8620
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number12
Early online date9 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • turbidity current
  • sediment transport
  • stable stratification


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