Field-scale numerical modeling of breaching as a mechanism for generating continuous turbidity currents

Esther Eke, Enrica Viparelli, Gary Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term "breaching" refers to the slow, retrogressive failure of a steep subaqueous slope, so forming a nearly vertical turbidity current directed down the face. This mechanism, first identified by the dredging industry, has remained largely unexplored, and yet evidence exists to link breaching to the formation of sustained turbidity currents in the deep sea. In this paper we model a breach-generated turbidity current using a three-equation, layer-averaged model that has as its basis the governing equations for the conservation of momentum, water, and suspended sediment of the turbidity current. In the model, the turbidity current is divided into two regions joined at a migrating boundary: the breach face, treated as vertical, and a quasi-horizontal region sloping downdip. In this downstream region, the bed slope is much lower (but still nonzero), and is constructed by deposition from a quasi-horizontal turbidity current. The model is applied to establish the feasibility of a breach-generated turbidity current in a field setting, using a generic example based on the Monterey Submarine Canyon, offshore California, USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1063-1076
Number of pages14
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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