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A 3-D morphometric analysis of erosional features in a contourite drift from offshore SE Brazil



A contourite drift from offshore Brazil is mapped in detail and investigated using state-of-the-art 3-D seismic data. The aim was to review the relevance of erosional features in contourite drifts accumulated on continental slopes. Topographically confined by growing salt diapirs, the mapped contourite ridge is limited by two erosional features, a contourite moat and a turbidite channel, showing multiple slide scars on it flanks. Associated with the latter features are thick accumulations of high-amplitude strata, probably comprising sandy/silty sediment of Miocene to Holocene age. The erosional unconformities are mostly observed in a region averaging 3.75 km away from the axes of a channel and a moat, whose deposits interfinger with continuous strata in central parts of the contourite drift. The multiple unconformities observed are mostly related to slide scars and local erosion on the flanks of the drift. This work demonstrates that the existence of widespread unconformities within contourite drifts on continental slopes: (1) may not be as prominent as often documented, (2) are often diachronic and interfinger with correlative hiatuses or aggraded strata in axial regions of contourite drifts. Although less widespread than regional, or ocean-scale unconformities, these diachronous features result in significant hiatuses within contourite drifts and are, therefore, potentially mappable as relevant (regional-scale) unconformities on 2-D/3-D seismic data. Thus, without a full 3-D morphometric analysis of contourite drifts, significant errors may occur when estimating major changes in the dynamics of principal geostrophic currents based on single-site core data, or on direct correlations between stratigraphic surfaces of distinct contourite bodies.