Evolution of Submarine Gullies on a Prograding Slope: Insights from 3D Seismic Reflection Data

Monday, 15 December 2014
Lauren Shumaker, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States and Zane R Jobe, Shell, Houston, TX, United States
Submarine gullies are common features on continental slopes on both passive and active margins, but the processes dictating gully formation and the role of gullies in deep-water sediment transport are topics of debate. The geometries of gullies can provide clues to understanding the processes by which they initiate and grow, particularly when considered in the context of surrounding submarine geomorphology. Further confidence in these interpretations can be gained by tracking the temporal history of gullies with evolution of the continental margin. The 500 km2 Tui 3D seismic survey from the Taranaki Basin, New Zealand, shows continental slope gullies and other channel features in a ~1 km-thick package of prograding shelf-slope clinoforms that developed over Pliocene-Pleistocene time. This dataset allows for documentation of gullies over ~3 Ma, through numerous cycles of initiation and burial. For this study, we manually interpreted clinoform packages to generate ‘paleo-seafloor’ surfaces that provide context such as position of the shelf edge, slope gradient and azimuth, and relative progradation and aggradation magnitudes. Gully geometries were obtained from detailed seismic interpretation guided by semblance and RMS amplitude imaging on these surfaces. Gullies are low sinuosity, with widths ranging from ~50-150 m and depths from a few tens to <100 m. Gullies are observed to grow in width and relief downslope without evidence for aggradational confinement (levees), and in some cases form gully ‘complexes’ hundreds of m wide in the lower slope region. These complexes are present through >150 m of stratigraphy, indicating that they are long-lived features on the slope. This further indicates that the frequency of flows along the gullies was enough to maintain their topographic expression during slope progradation and aggradation, and suggests that gullies play an integral role in transport processes on the slope.