Southern Weddell Sea shelf edge geomorphology: Implications for gully formation by the overflow of high-salinity water

Submarine gullies are the most common morphological features observed on Antarctic continental slopes. The processes forming these gullies, however, remain poorly constrained. In some areas, gully heads incise the continental shelf edge, and one hypothesis proposed is erosion by overflow of cold, dense water masses formed on the continental shelf. We examined new multibeam echo sounder bathymetric data from the Weddell Sea continental slope, the region that has the highest rate of cold, dense water overflow in Antarctica. Ice Shelf Water (ISW) cascades downslope with an average transport rate of 1.6 Sverdrups (Sv) in the southern Weddell Sea. Our new data show that within this region, ISW overflow does not deeply incise the shelf edge. The absence of gullies extending deeply into the glacial sediments at the shelf edge implies that cold, high salinity water overflow is unlikely to have caused the extensive shelf edge erosion observed on other parts of the Antarctic continental margin. Instead, the gullies observed in the southern Weddell Sea are relatively small and their characteristics indicative accumulation and subsequent failure of proglacial sediment during glacial maxima.


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Authors: Gales, J.A., Larter, R.D. ORCIDORCID record for R.D. Larter, Mitchell, N.C., Hillenbrand, C.-D. ORCIDORCID record for C.-D. Hillenbrand, Østerhus, S., Shoosmith, D.R.

On this site: Deb Shoosmith, Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand, Robert Larter
1 December, 2012
Journal of Geophysical Research / 117
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