River flooding, storm resuspension, and event stratigraphy on the northern California shelf: Observations compared with simulations

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Coast-hugging surface flood plumes occur on the inner shelf of northern California during the winter season, generating dense, near-bottom suspensions which may attain fluid mud concentrations as particles settle. The period of storm-heightened waves may continue into the flood period, leading to gravity-driven seaward displacement of the bottom suspension; or the wave regime may ameliorate, leaving the suspension to consolidate as a short-lived, inner-shelf flood bed. Such beds tend to be resuspended within days or weeks by subsequent storm events that may recreate the original high concentrations. The sediment is thus dispersed seaward by gravity flows, to be deposited as a muddy flood bed on the central shelf. The locus of deposition of these "high-concentration regimes" is a function of the relative intensities of river discharge and storm wave height. Greater discharge piles thicker storm beds nearer shore, while intense wave regimes allow deposition of the fluid mud further seaward. During events with high values of both parameters, large amount of fluid mud may bypass over the shelf edge. In contrast, "low-concentration regimes" occur during storm periods when there has been no recent flood deposition on the inner shelf. The shelf floor is better consolidated than in the previous case, and the resulting suspended sediment concentrations are lower. As a consequence, low-concentration regimes are winnowing and bypassing regimes, and the beds deposited are thinner and sandier. Algorithms describing deposition by high and low-concentration regimes have been embedded in a probabilistic model. A simulation of a 400-year sequence of beds deposited by winter storms and floods suggests that on the Eel shelf, the Holocene transgressive systems tract consists of back-stepping, seaward-fining event beds, whose timelines (bedding planes) dip more gently than do their gradational facies boundaries. At these longer time scales, flood beds dominate over storm beds. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Marine Geology

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