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Predicting turbidity current activity offshore from meltwater-fed river deltas

Bailey, Lewis P.; Clare, Michael A.; Pope, Ed L.; Haigh, Ivan D.; Cartigny, Matthieu J.B.; Talling, Peter J.; Lintern, D. Gwyn; Hage, Sophie; Heijnen, Maarten

Predicting turbidity current activity offshore from meltwater-fed river deltas Thumbnail


Lewis P. Bailey

Michael A. Clare

Ivan D. Haigh

D. Gwyn Lintern

Sophie Hage

Maarten Heijnen


Quantification of the controls on turbidity current recurrence is required to better constrain land to sea fluxes of sediment, carbon and pollutants, and design resilient infrastructure that is vulnerable to such flows. This is particularly important offshore from river deltas, where sediment supply is high. Numerous mechanisms can trigger turbidity currents, even at a single river mouth. However quantitative analysis of recurrence and triggers has been limited to an individual trigger for each turbidity current due to the low number of precisely timed (via direct monitoring) flows. We are therefore yet to quantify if and how coincident processes combine to generate turbidity currents, and their relative importance. Here, we analyse the timing and causes of 113 turbidity currents directly-monitored from the source of turbidity current initiation to depositional sink in a single submarine channel. This submarine channel is located offshore from glacial-fed river-deltas at Bute Inlet, a fjord in British Columbia, Canada. Using a multivariate statistical approach, we demonstrate the statistical significance of combined river discharge and tidal controls on turbidity current occurrence during 2018, from which we derive a statistical model that calculates turbidity current probability for any given input of river discharge and water level. This new model predicts turbidity current activity with >84% success offshore other river deltas where flow timing is precisely constrained by directly monitoring, including the Squamish and Fraser River-deltas in British Columbia. We suggest that this model will be applicable for turbidity current prediction at glacial meltwater-fed fjords in many other regions worldwide.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 23, 2022
Online Publication Date Jun 19, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Jun 26, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jun 26, 2023
Journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Print ISSN 0012-821X
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 604
Article Number 117977
Public URL


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