Supercritical flows overspilling from bypass-dominated submarine channels and the development of overbank bedforms

Adam McArthur*, Ian Kane, Guilherme Bozetti, Larissa Hansen, Benjamin C. Kneller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Overbank deposits of submarine channels are typically thin-bedded, fine-grained and predominantly characterized by a series of sedimentary structures interpreted to record a relatively simple history of waning flow. Here, a new type of bedform indicative of Froude-supercritical flow is reported from successions of thin-bedded turbidites interpreted as channel overbank deposits in the Upper Cretaceous Rosario Formation, Baja California, Mexico. A link is demonstrated between the development of overbank deposits in the form of depositional terraces or internal levees and contemporaneously active sediment transport, bypass and deposition of coarser-grained material in a channel. The overbank bedforms overlie an erosion surface and contain a suite of sedimentary structures indicative of initially Froude-supercritical flow conditions and a progressive waning of flow strength. In some cases, a stacked repetition of facies is interpreted to record a rejuvenation of flow energy. The characteristic sedimentary sequence observed is as follows: (a) long wavelength, low amplitude erosional surface with superimposed scours; (b) antidune backsets; (c) upper stage plane-parallel lamination; (d) subcritical climbing ripples; (e) supercritical climbing ripples; (f) lower stage planar laminated tops; (g) a sharp upper surface. The exact vertical sequence of sedimentary structures encountered varies depending on the point of observation with respect to the bedform crest and distance from the parent channel. The recognition of these distinctive bedforms allows for interpretation of sediment bypass and proximity to a channel thalweg. These bedforms have not hitherto been described and provide a further example of the range of flow processes operating in submarine channel–levee systems, which aids depositional environment interpretation in both subsurface and outcrop studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-40
Number of pages20
JournalDepositional Record
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Baja California
  • deep-marine
  • Rosario Formation
  • slope channels
  • turbidity currents
  • Upper Cretaceous


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