Measuring and modelling of turbidity currents in canyons beyond the continental shelf

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Ocean and Earth Science

Abstract

Submarine turbidity currents are arguably the volumetrically most important process for moving sediment across our planet. They form the largest sediment accumulations (submarine fans)on earth, and single flows can transport ten times the annual flux from all of the world's rivers. However, the most remarkable feature of turbidity currents is how few direct measurements are available from these flows, as they are notoriously difficult to monitor in action. This is a stark contrast to other major sediment transport processes, such as rivers for which we have many thousands of direct measurements. Powerful long run-out turbidity currents are especially difficult to monitor, yet it is these flows that build submarine fans. such flows are important because they break the sea-floor cables that carry 95% of global data traffic, including internet and financial markets that underpin daily lives. The velocity of turbidity currents that reach beyond the continental slope had previously been measured in just five locations, primarily from cable breaks. Their sediment concentration had never been measured directly. This globally important sediment transport process is therefore poorly understood, and laboratory or numerical models for such flows are poorly validated.

This PhD student will analyse a remarkable dataset comprising the first synchronous velocity and concentration profiles for turbidity currents beyond the continental slope, collected at a cost of >$1M by CASE partner Chevron and co-workers in the Congo Canyon (from 2009 to 2013). This is the first time that high temporal resolution (<1min) synchronous profiles of both velocity and concentration have been measured for turbidity currents beyond the continental slope. They are also the fastest (2.5 m/s) turbidity currents yet measured by instruments. The data were collected for a major oil and gas pipeline that will need to cross the Congo Canyon. This is a challenging project as previous cable breaks show the canyon is regularly swept by powerful flows. The data comes from moorings with downward pointing Acoustic Doppler Velocity Profilers (ADCPs) that measure velocity and acoustic backscatter. Backscatter is partly dependent on grain size, but also records change in sediment concentration.

Publications

10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/L009358/2 01/11/2019 28/03/2021
1798672 Studentship NE/L009358/2 30/09/2016 28/03/2021 Daniela Vendettuoli
 
Description First chapter: based on repeated bathymetric surveys we have reconstructed the stratigraphic architecture of submarine channel deposits and demonstrated how its record is incredibly incomplete even on the short time frame that the data were acquired (3 months bathymetric survey)
Second chapter: two end-members in gravity flow behaviour are possible: 1) short-lived turbidity currents in sand-rich systems; 2) prolonged events in mud-rich systems.
At a single location, multiple flow types are possible. In particular, at the system scale, the spectrum between the two end-members appears to be controlled mainly by the grain size.
The third chapter: have demonstrated that the existing gap in the literature between small bedforms and large sediments waves do not exist in nature but is rather linked to the low resolution used to acquired bathymetry data.
Exploitation Route Our study shows how time-lapse bathymetric surveys, allied to sediment cores and monitoring data, can make significant advances in the understanding of the spatial distribution of submarine channel deposits. For instance, it can be used to predict where to find a good vertical connectivity of sandy bodies in the field of oil & gas exploration; or can it can help to calibrate forwards numerical models that aim to reconstruct past sedimentary environments and their distribution.

My second research chapter shows that the lack of sampling we have in muddy systems represents a compelling need for us to keep monitoring active turbidity currents particularly for mud-rich environments

My third chapter highlights as advances in technologies are making it possible to resolve questions left open from past study
Sectors Education,Energy,Environment

URL https://data.mendeley.com/datasets/nx5nycdb7h/draft?a=5ce8e27a-e3ef-46ef-aa73-3e9fcd6e3d50&fbclid=IwAR1ROVb55IclntifLPb-AsBzYroBcQT9xjNDCPhY2N0UE_0acxr8cIs9UkA
 
Description My founding could be used to better understand depositional environments, to predict their lateral and vertical variability and to define the potentially extreme incompleteness of the stratigraphic record left behind by turbidity currents. Have also been able to demonstrate that the gap existing in the literature between small bedforms and large sediments waves do not exist in nature - instead, it is linked to the resolution at which data were aquired
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Education,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Contribution to Environmental Impact of Human Activities (EIHA) Committee of the OSPAR Commission - inputs to Quality Status Review and updates to Best Environmental Practice guidelines
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Presentation and Attendance at Natural Hazards Partnership Meetings with Cabinet Office to inform national risk assessment (continued contribution)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
URL http://www.naturalhazardspartnership.org.uk/
 
Title New approaches for detailed measurement of deep sea hazards (turbidity currents) 
Description We published a paper providing lessons learned and new approaches for designing platforms to make detailed measurements of dec sea sediment flows called turbidity currents that pose a hazard to critical seafloor infrastructure. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The paper provides the information for others to learn from our past experiences and has already been used by at least two research groups in New Zealand and Austria. 
URL https://sp.lyellcollection.org/content/500/1/605.abstract
 
Description Collaboration with Chevron 
Organisation Chevron Corporation
Department Chevron Energy Technology
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Daniela has analysed data acquired by Chevron, alongside other datasets acquired from other sites around the world, to better understand the global variability in turbidity current activity - this has provided key inputs to Chevron to understand how well their impact models explain the likely behaviour of these potentially damaging flows.
Collaborator Contribution Chevron have provided access to valuable data (acquisition costs were several million $) that include the first detailed measurements of turbidity currents. They have provided valuable feeedback and inputs to technical discussions, as well as co-authoring papers with us.
Impact New measurements are used to calibrate in-house hazard assessments for real world projects.
Start Year 2013
 
Description 57th British Sedimentological Research Group, Annual General Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact submitted my research for further feedback and research questions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description AGU Falling Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I presented my first two chapters in the American Geophysics Union Falling meeting in 2017 and 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2017,2019
URL https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2019/EGU2019-9813.pdf
 
Description Attended and contributed to Natural Hazards Partnership committee meetings (steering group to Cabinet Office on Natural Hazards) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Providing updates based on NOC research into hazards to inform ongoing updates of National Risk Assessment and National Risk Register.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description Contributed to working groups on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction(BBNJ) and Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Attended and presented at various working group meetings to understand the effects cables exert on the marine environment, and to determine the threats posed by deep sea mining and deep sea fishing in order to develop briefing documents for governments. Contributed to white paper on Fish Aggregating Devices and Best Practice and Emerging Issues document to be issued to various governments in 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2020,2021
 
Description Contribution to Offshore Engineering, Geohazards and Geomorphology working group to develop best practice report for offshore industry practitioners. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Contribution to developing best industry practice guidelines, to be published in 2022. My role is providing state of the art knowledge on offshore characterization and monitoring, ensuring that the industry participants (oil and gas, renewables, cables etc) are aware.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description EGU General Assembly 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact I was part of the European Geosciences Union and presented my second chapter "Controls on turbidity current flow modes: New insights from direct measurements worldwide".
I received very good feedback from those professional scientists who study similar phenomena. And based upon some of the received comments, I then give another direction to my research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Engagement with oil and gas operators to understand existing and best practices for hazard assessment 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Engagement with oil and gas operators to understand existing and best practices for hazard assessment for offshore infrastructure and potential cross-overs for non-hydrocarbon infrastructure, including visits to company offices in Houston (ExxonMobil and Chevron, 14-15th Dec), Oxfordshire (Halliburton, 22nd Feb), and Basingstoke (ENI, 23rd Feb, 10th August, 31st Aug).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Issued public-facing Environment Update to increase public awareness of subsea cables 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I issued the first of a planned bi-annual, marine-focused newsletter titled "Submarine Cable Protection and the Environment." The publication is a new and timely reference for all seabed users, the science community, and the general public who share the same vital goal as the ICPC- safeguarding submarine telecommunications and power cables worldwide. Exclusive to ICPC Members only, access to an historical archive of more than 200 issues of an "Environment Update" publication are available on-demand, but now the "Submarine Cable Protection and the Environment" publication is being made available twice a year to the industry and public.

ICPC General Manager Mr Ryan Wopschall stated, "Having Mike's expertise on staff truly benefits the ICPC and its Members, but we also acknowledge his thorough research can benefit the broader submarine cable industry, other marine users and stakeholders, and the wider public. Mike has written articles that not only get readers to think about the importance of the marine environment in our local daily lives, but also provides insights into the sustainability and resiliency of global submarine cable infrastructure and its critical role in our world today."

As of Nov 2020 this had been downloaded >1,100 times.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://iscpc.org/publications/submarine-cable-protection-and-the-environment/
 
Description Joined Deep Oceans Stewardship Initiative (DOSI) working group on Litter and Marine Debris 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Contributed to various working group meetings - now working on policy briefing document regarding litter in the marine environment. No impacts realized yet as this is work in progress.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2020,2021
URL https://www.dosi-project.org/topics/pollution/
 
Description Knowledge Transfer workshops with Fugro 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Four workshops have been held at Fugro in Wallingford, Oxfordshire to communicate the findings of recent research into turbidity current and landslide monitoring to improve risk assessments for offshore infrastructure. These have assisted in the scoping of field deployments of monitoring moorings in deep water developments, thus improving Fugro's ability to measure geohazards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Media coverage of high profile papers on plastic pollution in the deep sea 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Two papers (Kane et al and Pohl et al) stimulated significant media interest and were featured by several international newspapers and media outlets.
The paper published in Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.aba5899) on deep-sea microplastics transport was chosen as the focus on an editorial ("Perspective" article) in Science by Mohrig (DOI: 10.1126/science.abc1510). Some profiling of the Pohl et al. ES&T paper (doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b07527) in the media (NOC press release: https://noc.ac.uk/news/new-insights-transportation-microplastics-across-deep-seafloor) and was the focus of an Editorial in Nature Reviews - Earth & Environment: https://www.nature.com/articles/s43017-020-0047-9
Mainstream media coverage, featuring interviews with Mike Clare and other project partners:
Guardian - Terrawatch Editorial: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/31/terrawatch-plastic-rich-canyons-forming-in-the-deep-ocean
Physorg https://phys.org/news/2020-03-underwater-avalanches-microplastics-deep-ocean.html
LiveScience: https://www.livescience.com/avalanches-bury-microplastics.html
The Kane et al. Science paper (DOI: 10.1126/science.aba5899 was viewed >18,000 times in the week of release) in the media (NOC press release. https://noc.ac.uk/news/seafloor-microplastic-hotspots-controlled-deep-sea-currents). The paper was covered by 67 news outlets as of 07/05/20 including:
Daily Mail: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8274399/Nearly-two-million-pieces-microplastics-square-metre-seafloor.html
Newsweek: https://www.newsweek.com/scientists-identify-1-9-million-pieces-microplastic-square-meter-ocean-floor-1501237
Sky News: https://news.sky.com/story/microplastics-scientists-find-highest-level-ever-on-seabed-11981029
New Scientist: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2242075-ocean-currents-are-sweeping-microplastics-into-the-deep-sea/
The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/30/microplastics-found-in-greater-quantities-than-ever-before-on-seabed-currents-hotspots
The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/seafloor-currents-sweep-microplastics-into-deep-sea-hotspots-of-ocean-life-137314
Two articles on BBC website: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-52489126
CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/30/world/microplastics-seafloor-concentration-scn-scli-intl/index.html
Wired: https://www.wired.com/story/microplastic-hotspots/
CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/04/30/toxic-microplastic-hotspots-are-accumulating-on-the-ocean-floor-in-record-levels.html#click=https://t.co/qlxUsqH3bZ
BBC Newsround: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/52499228
FOX News https://www.foxnews.com/science/highest-ever-concentration-microplastics-found-seafloor
New York Post: https://nypost.com/2020/05/06/highest-ever-concentration-of-microplastics-found-on-seafloor/

Kane, I., Clare, M., Miramontes, E., Wogelius, R., Rothwell, J., Garreau, P., Pohl, F. (2020). Seafloor microplastic hotspots controlled by deep sea circulation, Science. doi: 10.1126/science.aba5899

Pohl, F., Eggenhuisen, J.T., Kane, I.A. and Clare, M.A., 2020. Transport and burial of microplastics in deep-marine sediments by turbidity currents. Environmental Science & Technology. doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b07527
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Media, public and industry engagement on deep sea cables 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Interview on deep sea cables and benefits and issues regarding recycling - Mike Clare featured in Capacity Magazine (telecom industry magazine) https://www.capacitymedia.com/articles/3827192/greening-the-seas

Mike Clare also delivered an online webinar on "Emerging environmental issues for subsea cables" for the membership of the International Cable Protection Committee (169 industry and government organisations with a vested interest in subsea cables).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.capacitymedia.com/articles/3827192/greening-the-seas
 
Description Mike Clare gave an invited talk on 17th June 2020 for the International Association of Sedimentologists via the SedsOnline platform ("Observing turbidity currents in the wild: New insights from direct field-scale measurements") 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation was attended by 106 scientists from around the world.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://sedsonline.com/meetings-library
 
Description Performed review of geohazards assessment for proposed offshore power cable 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Providing guidance to METOC/INTERTEK based on analysis of offshore bathymetry data to inform the safe routing of an offshore power cable.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation at Oceanology International Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation at online Oceanology International conference on developing listening networks for deep-sea geohazards (Mike Clare) - 26th Nov 2020. The event had 2843 attendees, 117 countries were represented. My presentation received 322 viewers on demand, 603 total views, with 217 total viewing hours.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://noc.ac.uk/news/oceanology-international-2020
 
Description Presentation at Submarine Networks International Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Mike Clare gave an invited keynote on marine geohazards for subsea telecommunications cables networks, which prompted follow up discussions for collaboration and to access related research findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.terrapinn.com/conference/submarine-networks-world-europe/index.stm
 
Description Presentation for student chapter of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists on Monitoring Turbidity Currents - 28th Nov. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation highlighting results of recent research - >200 people attended in person.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2020
 
Description Presentation to industry conference (Oceanology International) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presented to 130 industry representatives on offshore geohazards assessments with positive feedback from the conference convenor from BP

"You were as impressive as ever and wowed (I believe the word is) the young BP staff present who had never seen you! To numbers. The room had seats for 176. I suspect you had about 120-130 after lunch. After the extended tea break we were down to only 36 - I counted that. You had around three times that. The second morning session was probably c 175 (a few empty seats but plenty standing)." Andy Hill, BP
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presented at European Subsea Cables Association Annual Plenary and support ESCA in discussions with OSPAR Commission 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I was invited to present on climate change, cables and the environment at the ESCA plenary meeting and was subsequently invited to support ESCA in their discussions on the Best Environmental Practices of Cable Installation and Maintenance and relevant sections of an ongoing Quality Status Review for the OSPAR Commission (where ESCA as official Observer Status). I have attended and presented at meetings for the Environmental Impacts of Human Activities (EIHA) of the OSPAR Commission and successfully proposed an update to guidance documents on the environmental effects of subsea cables that will feed into future planning of routes in deep water, and in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction. I will continue to support ESCA and liaise with various national parties involved in these updates over the coming months.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description Presented at International Cable Protection Committee annual plenary meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Gave invited talk as Marine Environmental Advisor to the 160 member organizations to the ICPC (incl. industry and government representatives from >30 countries) providing updates on state of knowledge regarding threats to subsea cables (incl climate change), climate change effects on vulnerable ecosystems and environmental effects of subsea cables, and developments in novel monitoring in the deep-sea to better understand marine hazards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presented on new approaches to direct monitoring of natural hazards for offshore infrastructure 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presented on new approaches to direct monitoring of natural hazards for offshore infrastructure to audience of c.500 industry representatives at Offshore Site Investigation and Geotechnics international conference in London (September). Output delivered initially as a white paper, developed with industry partners from HR Wallingford, and later accepted as a peer-reviewed paper (http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/517514/). These new approaches provide UK industry organisations, such as partner Fugro GeoConsulting Ltd and Atkins Ltd, with new approaches to quantify impact and risk posed to critical seafloor infrasrtucture which underpins our day to day communication links (cables) and energy supplies (pipelines). Minimising the risk posed to offshore infrastructure, reduces the likelihood of broken communications (which could costs the UK £Bs in lost financial trading for instance) or the loss of harmful hydrocarbons to the environment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Provision of guidance on threats to subsea telecom cables based on recent monitoring analysis 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Various technical workshops, online presentations and webinars with telecom companies incl. Google, Vodafone, BT, Alcatel, Angola Cables and the International Cable Protection Committee. New routes for subsea cables were revised as a result of this engagement which should ensure that future connections are more resilient.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2020,2021
 
Description Turbidity current hazard workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 2 day workshop to highlight advances and opportunities to perform offshore industry hazard assessments. The workshop aimed to identify future collaborative research directions that will help industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description onvened 2 day international workshop with 23 international attendees 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Convened 2 day international workshop with 23 international attendees including industry fellowship partners CH2M Hill and Fugro, and representatives from the IGCP S4SLIDE project (23-24 Jan). The meeting led to a white paper, which I lead-authored, on a consistent global approach to submarine landslide characterisation to improve hazards assessments for marine infrastructure (https://eartharxiv.org/j5mh7/). This initiative ensures that UK companies can contribute to, and benefit from, a growing global initiative to ensure standardisation of submarine landslide characterisation. Access to the compiled and standardised data will provide a new resource for organisations that deal with offshore asset insurance, repair, natural hazard assessment, and oil and gas
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017