Factors controlling the morphology and internal sediment architecture of moats and their associated contourite drifts


The interaction of sedimentary systems with oceanographic processes in deep-water environments is not well understood yet, despite its importance for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, and for a full understanding of source-to-sink sediment transport. The aim of this study is to improve the understanding of how contourite moats, elongated depressions formed by bottom currents associated with contourite drifts, develop and of the link between moat-drift system morphology and bottom current dynamics. This study provides a systematic comparison of 185 cross-sections of moat-drift systems distributed at 39 different locations worldwide, and a detailed analysis of the morphology of six moats that cover a wide range of typical geological and hydrodynamic settings. Additionally, in situ measured current data were analysed to better link hydrodynamics to moat morphology. The median of all profiles across all moat-drift systems reveals a 50 m relief, a width of 2.3 km, a relief to width ratio of 0.022, a slope angle of 6°, a drift angle of 3° and a concave-up shaped morphology. Moats can be over 100 km long. Some moats are driven by sediment erosion while others are depositional and primarily exist due to differential sedimentation inside the moat compared to the drift alongside the moat. A new sub-classification of moat-drift systems based on their stratigraphy is proposed. This classification distinguishes moats depending on the degree of erosion versus deposition. No relation is found between latitude and moat-drift morphology or stratigraphy in the analysed examples. The combined data indicate that a steeper slope focuses the current more than a gentle slope, resulting in an increase of the relief-width ratio and drift angle. Thus, this study provides new insides into the interaction of ocean currents with sedimentary morphology, which thereby affects the evolution of a poorly understood deepwater sedimentary system.
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