What are turbidity currents?

  • They are fast-moving currents that sweep down submarine canyons, carrying sand and mud into the deep sea.
  • However, there is more to them than just sediment-laden seawater flowing over the sea floor, and they also involve large-scale movements of the sea floor itself.
  • This discovery could help ocean engineers avoid damage to pipelines, communications cables, and other sea floor structures.
  • Geologists have known about turbidity currents since at least 1929, when a large earthquake triggered a violent current that travelled several hundred kilometres and damaged 12 trans-Atlantic communications cables.
  • Turbidity currents are still a threat today, as people place more and more cables, pipelines, and other structures on the sea floor.
  • Turbidity currents are also important to petroleum geologists because they leave behind layers of sediment that comprise some of the world’s largest oil reserves.


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