Submarine Mass Movements on Continental Margins

  1. Charles A. Nittrouer,
  2. James A. Austin,
  3. Michael E. Field,
  4. Joseph H. Kravitz,
  5. James P. M. Syvitski and
  6. Patricia L. Wiberg
  1. Homa J. Lee1,
  2. Jacques Locat2,
  3. Priscilla Desgagnés2,
  4. Jeffrey D. Parsons3,
  5. Brian G. McAdoo4,
  6. Daniel L. Orange5,
  7. Pere Puig6,
  8. Florence L. Wong1,
  9. Peter Dartnell1 and
  10. Eric Boulanger2

Published Online: 25 MAR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444304398.ch5

Continental Margin Sedimentation: From Sediment Transport to Sequence Stratigraphy

Continental Margin Sedimentation: From Sediment Transport to Sequence Stratigraphy

How to Cite

Lee, H. J., Locat, J., Desgagnés, P., Parsons, J. D., McAdoo, B. G., Orange, D. L., Puig, P., Wong, F. L., Dartnell, P. and Boulanger, E. (2007) Submarine Mass Movements on Continental Margins, in Continental Margin Sedimentation: From Sediment Transport to Sequence Stratigraphy (eds C. A. Nittrouer, J. A. Austin, M. E. Field, J. H. Kravitz, J. P. M. Syvitski and P. L. Wiberg), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444304398.ch5

Author Information

  1. 1

    United States Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA

  2. 2

    Département de Géologie et de Génie Géologique, Laval University, Québec G1K 7P4, Canada

  3. 3

    School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

  4. 4

    Department of Geology and Geography, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604, USA

  5. 5

    AOA Geophysics, Inc., Moss Landing, CA 95039, USA

  6. 6

    Institut de Ciències del Mar, Barcelona 08003, Spain

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 MAR 2009
  2. Published Print: 17 JUL 2007

Book Series:

  1. Special Publication Number 37 of the International Association of Sedimentologists

Book Series Editors:

  1. Ian Jarvis

Series Editor Information

  1. School of Earth Sciences & Geography, Centre for Earth & Environmental Science Research, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames KT1 2EE, UK

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405169349

Online ISBN: 9781444304398



  • submarine mass movements on continental margins;
  • sediment mobilization and strength loss;
  • earthquakes - cause for unexplained submarine landslide features;
  • irregular blocky ridges on submarine north - Molokai and Oahu representing giant landslides;
  • ‘Humboldt Slide’ controversy;
  • liquefaction failures in Eel Canyon;
  • submarine landslide geomorphology;
  • liquidity index (sediment water content to the Atterberg limits);
  • slope stability analysis and landslide susceptibility assessment


Submarine landslides can be important mechanisms for transporting sediment down sloping seabeds. They occur when stresses acting downslope exceed the available strength of the seabed sediments. Landslides occur preferentially in particular environments, including fjords, active river deltas, submarine canyons, volcanic islands and, to a lesser extent, the open continental slope. Evaluating the relative stability of different seabeds requires an understanding of driving stresses and sediment strength. Stresses can be caused by gravity, earthquakes and storm waves. Resisting strength can be reduced by pore water and gas pressures, groundwater seepage, rapid sediment deposition, cyclic loading and human activity. Once slopes have become unstable or have failed, strength may continue to decrease, leading to sediment debris flows and possibly turbidity currents. Recent submarine landslide research has: shown that landslides and sediment waves may generate similar deposits, which require careful interpretation; expanded our knowledge of how strength develops in marine sediment; improved techniques for predicting sediment rheology; and developed methodologies for mapping and predicting the medium- to large-scale regional occurrence of submarine landslides.