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Storm-driven shelf-to-canyon suspended sediment transport at the southwestern Gulf of Lions

AuthorsPalanques, Albert CSIC ORCID ; Guillén, Jorge CSIC ORCID ; Puig, Pere CSIC ORCID ; Durrieu de Madron, Xavier
KeywordsSuspended sediment transport
Off-shelf export
Submarine canyon
Storm events
Dense shelf water cascading
Gulf of Lions
Cap de Creus
Issue Date30-Aug-2008
CitationContinental Shelf Research 28(15): 1947-1956 (2008)
AbstractShelf-to-canyon suspended sediment transport during major storms was studied at the southwestern end of the Gulf of Lions. Waves, near-bottom currents, temperature and water turbidity were measured on the inner shelf at 28-m water depth and in the Cap de Creus submarine canyon head at 300 m depth from November 2003 to March 2004. Two major storm events producing waves Hs>6 m coming from the E–SE sector took place, the first on 3–4 December 2003 (max Hs: 8.4 m) and the second on 20–22 February 2004 (max Hs: 7 m). During these events, shelf water flowed downcanyon producing strong near-bottom currents on the canyon head due to storm-induced downwelling, which was enhanced by dense shelf water cascading in February 2004. These processes generated different pulses of downcanyon suspended sediment transport. During the peak of both storms, the highest waves and the increasing near-bottom currents resuspended sediment on the canyon head and the adjacent outer shelf causing the first downcanyon sediment transport pulses. The December event ended just after these first pulses, when the induced downwelling finished suddenly due to restoration of shelf water stratification. This event was too short to allow the sediment resuspended on the shallow shelf to reach the canyon head. In contrast, the February event, reinforced by dense shelf water cascading, was long enough to transfer resuspended sediment from shallow shelf areas to the canyon head in two different pulses at the end of the event. The downcanyon transport during these last two pulses was one order of magnitude higher than those during the December event and during the first pulses of the February event and accounted for more than half of the total downcanyon sediment transport during the fall 2003 and winter 2004 period. Major storm events, especially during winter vertical mixing periods, produce major episodes of shelf-to-canyon sediment transport at the southwestern end of the Gulf of Lions. Hydrographic structure and storm duration are important factors controlling off-shelf sediment transport during these events
DescriptionSpecial issue Sediment Dynamics in the Gulf of Lions; the Impact of Extreme Events.-- 10 pages, 5 figures
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