Submarine channels "swept" downstream after bend cutoff in salt basins

Contributors:
  1. Michael Hudec
  2. Dallas Dunlap

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Description: Channel-bend expansion and downstream translation, as well as vertical movements by aggradation and incision, set the stratigraphic architecture of channelized depositional systems. Early work on submarine-channel evolution has suggested that downstream translation is rare. We propose that downstream translation of bends might be common in deep-water salt-tectonic provinces, where complex topography can localize channel pathways that promote meander cutoffs and the generation of high-curvature bends. We use three-dimensional seismic-reflection data from a region with salt-influenced topography in the Campos basin, offshore Brazil, to characterize the structural geometry of a salt diapir and stratigraphic architecture of an adjacent ~18 km-long reach of a submarine-channel system. We interpret the structural and stratigraphic evolution, including meander-cutoff development near the salt diapir followed by ~10 km of downstream translation of a channel bend. We test the stratigraphic evolution with a simple numerical model of channel meandering. This integrated subsurface characterization and stratigraphic modeling study sheds light on the processes and controls of submarine-channel downstream translation, which might be common in rapidly deforming settings, such as salt basins, that promote localized subsidence, meander cutoffs, and rapidly translating, high-curvature bends.

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