Preconditioning and triggering of offshore slope failures and turbidity currents revealed by most detailed monitoring yet at a fjord-head delta
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Description: Rivers and turbidity currents are the two most important sediment transport processes by volume on Earth. Various hypotheses have been proposed for triggering of turbidity currents offshore from river mouths, including direct plunging of river discharge, delta mouth bar flushing or slope failure caused by low tides and gas expansion, earthquakes and rapid sedimentation. During 2011, 106 turbidity currents were monitored at Squamish Delta, British Columbia. This enables statistical analysis of timing, frequency and triggers. The largest peaks in river discharge did not create hyperpycnal flows. Instead, delayed delta-lip failures occurred 8–11 h after flood peaks, due to cumulative delta top sedimentation and tidally-induced pore pressure changes. Elevated river discharge is thus a significant control on the timing and rate of turbidity currents but not directly due to plunging river water. Elevated river discharge and focusing of river discharge at low tides cause increased sediment transport across the delta-lip, which is the most significant of all controls on flow timing in this setting.