Erosional and Depositional Features of Glacial Meltwater Discharges on the Eastern Canadian Continental Margin


Large-scale glacial meltwater discharges have long been recognized as important sedimentological agents on the eastern Canadian continental margin. Previous studies in Eastern Valley of Laurentian Fan and Orphan Basin have elucidated aspects of processes and timing of glacial discharges, principally from seismic-reflection profiles and deep-water sidescan sonar. New multibeam bathymetry and piston cores show evidence of important meltwater processes seaward of all transverse troughs on the continental shelf, from Hudson Strait to the Scotian margin. Meltwater cuts broad flat-floored valleys and sculpts residual buttes, depositing thick-bedded gravel and sand turbidites, and builds submarine fans. Based on morphology, a wide range of scales of meltwater discharge may take place. Meltwater is intimately linked with supply of fluid glacial diamict (till) that on gentler slopes (< 2.5°) creates glacigenic debris flows but on steeper slopes breaks up, entrains water, and transforms to create erosive turbidity currents. Three end-member processes are recognized on submarine fans seaward of transverse troughs that were occupied by ice streams: glacigenic debris flows, turbidity-current deposition of channel–levee complexes, and blocky mass-transport deposits resulting from debris avalanches. The relative importance of meltwater appears greater at lower than at higher latitudes, whereas the formation of glacigenic debris flows is dependent on gradient. Pleistocene processes have resulted in slopes that are graded, implying that most sand deposition was on the continental rise.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

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Application of the Principles of Seismic Geomorphology to Continental-Slope and Base-of-Slope Systems: Case Studies from Seafloor and Near-Seafloor Analogues



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Book Chapter