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ABSTRACT

A process-based, forward computer model of turbidity current flow and sedimentation, termed the TCFS model, has been developed to trace the downslope evolution of individual turbidity flows. Details of the model itself have been presented in a preceding paper. We here outline a series of tests of the TGFS model.

The sensitivity tests of the TCFS model to general geological controls reveal the quantitative relationship between these controls and the behaviour of turbidity flows and the geometry and textural features of the resulting turbidites. Experimental turbidity currents on relatively steep slopes accelerate more rapidly and reach higher velocities than those on gentle slopes. Flows with larger initial volumes have higher initial velocities, travel further downslope, and form beds of greater thickness and downslope extent than smaller flows. Experimental high-concentration flows with suspended-sediment concentrations of 25% accelerate more rapidly and reach higher downslope velocities than dilute flows with 5% suspended sediment. The higher velocities and enhanced hindered-settling effects of the high-concentration flows lead to much greater transport distances and reduced vertical and lateral sediment size grading in the resulting turbidites. Beds formed by experimental high-concentration flows are massive or show coarse-tail grading whereas beds formed by low-concentration flows show distribution-grading. Experimental flows fed by coarse sediment sources tend to deposit the bulk of their suspended sediment loads on the proximal slope, resulting in more rapid flow deceleration and sedimentation than flows fed by silt-rich, fine-grained sediment sources. Turbidites formed by coarse-sediment flows tend to have a wedge-shaped geometry, with low downslope extent and high surface relief, whereas turbidites formed by fine-sediment flows tend to have a tabular geometry, with greater downslope extent and lower surface relief.

A specific geological test of the TCFS model is based on studies of modern turbidity currents in Bute Inlet, British Columbia, Canada. With the input initial and boundary conditions estimated from Bute Inlet, the model predicts the downslope velocity evolution of turbidity currents comparable to those of modern and ancient turbidity flows measured in Bute Inlet. Model-calculated vertical and downslope grain-size properties of turbidites are similar to those exhibited by surface and cored Bute Inlet turbidites. Model flows tend to decelerate more rapidly than some stronger turbidity currents in the Bute Inlet system, and model beds tend to decrease in grain-size downslope more rapidly than observed bottom sediments. This is probably because the TCFS model flows lacked clay, which is abundant in Bute Inlet; they do not fully simulate turbulent mixing of suspended sediments; and they better represent the unsteady, depositional stage of turbidity-currents than the preceding stage of more-or-less steady-flow conditions.

These tests demonstrate that the TCFS model provides a semi-quantitative method to study the growth patterns of submarine turbidite systems. It can serve as a predictive tool for analysing the facies architecture of ancient turbidite systems through simulating multi-depositional events by improving its erosion function, and the compatibility between its numerical components.