A video is worth a thousand words: Ten years of laboratory experiments on subaqueous gravity flows and the insights gained into their flow and deposition

Jeffrey D Marr, Gary N. Parker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


Submarine mass gravity flows play a significant role in the formation and alteration of the geological record along deep marine margins. Petroleum exploration requires an understanding of the processes involved in these mass transport events. The development of modem deep-marine infrastructure such as pipelines, platforms and cables must consider the risk associated with the potential occurrence of mass transport events. Both interpretations of the geologic record and risk assessment for occurrence of mass gravity flows require an understanding of the initiation, transport and depositional processes associated with subaqueous gravity flows. Unlike subaerial mass transport events, submarine events have never been observed and therefore limited understanding of the processes associated with the events is available. Controlled laboratory experiments of subaqueous mass flows is one means of studying these important events. This paper will present a summary of nearly ten years of experimental research conducted at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, University of Minnesota on the flow and deposition of subaqueous debris flows. In general, the experiments show that flow dynamics and deposition of mass gravity flows are linked to the amount of clay, type of clay, water content, and grain size distribution of the failed material. Specific research projects addressed five main issues: 1) flow and deposition of sand rich debris flows, 2) the effect of hydroplaning on subaqueous debris flow mobility, 3) flow and deposition of laterally unconfined debris flows, 4) the reworking of antecedent deposits by subaqueous debris flows, and 5) rheological characterization of gravity flow mixtures. The results of these experiments provide insight into the flow and deposition of deep marine mass transport events. Many of the quantitative results can be scaled up from the laboratory to the field scale through distorted scaling methodology. The qualitative results, including observations recorded with video and photographs, provide a perspective and understanding of these events that is otherwise unavailable to the science and engineering communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOffshore Technology Conference 2004, OTC 2004
PublisherOffshore Technology Conference
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781615679713
StatePublished - 2004
EventOffshore Technology Conference 2004, OTC 2004 - Houston, TX, United States
Duration: May 3 2004May 6 2004

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Annual Offshore Technology Conference
ISSN (Print)0160-3663


OtherOffshore Technology Conference 2004, OTC 2004
CountryUnited States
CityHouston, TX

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