Secondary flow in contour currents controls the formation of moat-drift contourite systems
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Wilckens, H., Eggenhuisen, J.T., Adema, P.H. et al. Secondary flow in contour currents controls the formation of moat-drift contourite systems. Commun Earth Environ 4, 316 (2023). [https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-023-00978-0]
SponsorshipProjekt DEAL; BremenIDEA University of Bremen
Ocean currents control seafloor morphology and the transport of sediments, organic carbon, nutrients, and pollutants in deep-water environments. A better connection between sedimentary deposits formed by bottom currents (contourites) and hydrodynamics is necessary to improve reconstructions of paleocurrent and sediment transport pathways. Here we use physical modeling in a three-dimensional flume tank to analyse the morphology and hydrodynamics of a self-emerging contourite system. The sedimentary features that developed on a flat surface parallel to a slope are an elongated depression (moat) and an associated sediment accumulation (drift). The moat-drift system can only form in the presence of a secondary flow near the seafloor that transports sediment from the slope toward the drift. The secondary flow increases with higher speeds and steeper slopes, leading to steeper adjacent drifts. This study shows how bottom currents shape the morphology of the moat-drift system and highlights their potential to estimate paleo-ocean current strength.