Sea level controls on the textural characteristics and depositional architecture of the Hueneme and associated submarine fan systems, Santa Monica Basin, California



Hueneme and Dume submarine fans in Santa Monica Basin consist of sandy channel and muddy levee facies on the upper fan, lenticular sand sheets on the middle fan, and thinly bedded turbidite and hemipelagic facies elsewhere. Fifteen widely correlatable key seismic reflections in high-resolution airgun and deep-towed boomer profiles subdivide the fan and basin deposits into time-slices that show different thickness and seismic-facies distributions, inferred to result from changes in Quaternary sea level and sediment supply. At times of low sea level, highly efficient turbidity currents generated by hyperpycnal flows or sediment failures at river deltas carry sand well out onto the middle-fan area. Thick, muddy flows formed rapidly prograding high levees mainly on the western (right-hand) side of three valleys that fed Hueneme fan at different times; the most recently active of the lowstand fan valleys, Hueneme fan valley, now heads in Hueneme Canyon. At times of high sea level, fans receive sand from submarine canyons that intercept littoral-drift cells and mixed sediment from earthquake-triggered slumps. Turbidity currents are confined to ‘underfit’ talweg channels in fan valleys and to steep, small, basin-margin fans like Dume fan. Mud is effectively separated from sand at high sea level and moves basinward across the shelf in plumes and in storm-generated lutite flows, contributing to a basin-floor blanket that is locally thicker than contemporary fan deposits and that onlaps older fans at the basin margin. The infilling of Santa Monica Basin has involved both fan and basin-floor aggradation accompanied by landward and basinward facies shifts. Progradation was restricted to the downslope growth of high muddy levees and the periodic basinward advance of the toe of the steeper and sandier Dume fan. Although the region is tectonically active, major sedimentation changes can be related to eustatic sea-level changes. The primary controls on facies shifts and fan growth appear to be an interplay of texture of source sediment, the efficiency with which turbidity currents transport sand, and the effects of delta distributary switching, all of which reflect sea-level changes.