Turbidity currents and their deposits

Eckart Meiburg, Ben Kneller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

388 Citations (Scopus)


The article surveys the current state of our understanding of turbidity currents, with an emphasis on their fluid mechanics. It highlights the significant role these currents play within the global sediment cycle, and their importance in environmental processes and in the formation of hydrocarbon reservoirs. Events and mechanisms governing the initiation of turbidity currents are reviewed, along with experimental observations and findings from field studies regarding their internal velocity and density structure. As turbidity currents propagate over the seafloor, they can trigger the evolution of a host of topographical features through the processes of deposition and erosion, such as channels, levees, and sediment waves. Potential linear instability mechanisms are discussed that may determine the spatial scales of these features. Finally, the hierarchy of available theoretical models for analyzing the dynamics of turbidity currents is outlined, ranging from dimensional analysis and integral models to both depth-averaged and depth-resolving simulation approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-156
Number of pages22
JournalAnnual Review of Fluid Mechanics
Early online date17 Aug 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • sediment transport
  • initiation mechanism
  • seafloor topography
  • erosion and deposition
  • linear stability
  • theoretical model
  • driven gravity currents
  • 2-dimensional mixing layers
  • high-resolution simulations
  • direct numerical-simulation
  • submarine canyons
  • density currents
  • heavy-particles
  • flow dynamics
  • erodible bed
  • debris flows


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