Predicting river mouth location from delta front dip and clinoform dip in modern and ancient wave‐dominated deltas

Eva H Zimmer, John A Howell* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Wave‐dominated deltas and strandplains make up the majority of the world’s depositional coastlines, provide an important record of sea‐level change and serve as hydrocarbon reservoirs worldwide. Satellite imagery forms a great source of data on the recent depositional history of modern deltaic systems. In the subsurface, three‐dimensional seismic and well data make the three‐dimensional assessment of large‐scale deltaic reservoir bodies possible but struggle to resolve internal heterogeneities away from wells. To bridge this gap in characterizing deltaic sedimentation, this study combines measurements from both the shallow, high‐resolution section of three‐dimensional seismic data of the Eocene Halibut Delta in the Outer Moray Firth, offshore Scotland, with information from Google Earth’s satellite imagery and digital elevation model on south‐east Brazilian river deltas (São Francisco, Jequitinhonha, Doce and Paraíba do Sul) to present a means of predicting the location of fluvial sediment input points with respect to clinoform geometry. The key measurement for this study is the delta front and clinoform dip which has been measured at multiple locations along strike of the coastline of the examined deltas. Dip decreases away from the inferred river mouth for all deltas by 50% within 7.2 km. The river mouth location was inferred from the position of palaeo‐channels visible on the delta top and coarse sediment recorded in grab samples offshore for the south‐east Brazilian deltas, and from imprints of palaeo‐channels on attribute maps for the Eocene Halibut Delta. In summary, this study found that delta front dip is steepest at the location of the river mouth and decreases, along with grain size, away from it. This suggests that high dip values correlate with the proximity to the channel mouth and can be used to predict fluvial channel facies in modern deltaic systems and subsurface reservoirs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-736
Number of pages24
Issue number2
Early online date13 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Open Access via Wiley publishing agreement.

This work was undertaken as part of the SAFARI project in a collaboration between the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom and NORCE in Bergen, Norway. SAFARI is sponsored by a consortium of oil companies, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, and the Norwegian Research Council. Details at PGS generously provided the seismic data for this case study. Software used for seismic interpretation and satellite imagery analysis was Petrel 2016 by Schlumberger and Google Earth Pro We would like to thank the associate editor C. Fielding as well as the reviewers G. Hampson and E. Anthony for critically reviewing the manuscript and offering constructive advice leading to significant improvement of both text and figures.

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


  • Clinoform
  • clinoform dip
  • linothem
  • coastal processes
  • delta front
  • facies distribution
  • river-dominated
  • wave-dominated
  • clinothem


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