Channelized debris-flow deposits and their impact on turbidity currents: The Puchkirchen axial channel belt in the Austrian Molasse Basin



Deposits of submarine debris flows can build up substantial topography on the sea floor. The resulting sea floor morphology can strongly influence the pathways of and deposition from subsequent turbidity currents. Map views of sea floor morphology are available for parts of the modern sea floor and from high-resolution seismic-reflection data. However, these data sets usually lack lithological information. In contrast, outcrops provide cross-sectional and lateral stratigraphic details of deep-water strata with superb lithological control but provide little information on sea floor morphology. Here, a methodology is presented that extracts fundamental lithological information from sediment core and well logs with a novel calibration between core, well-logs and seismic attributes within a large submarine axial channel belt in the Tertiary Molasse foreland basin, Austria. This channel belt was the course of multiple debris-flow and turbidity current events, and the fill consists of interbedded layers deposited by both of these processes. Using the core-well-seismic calibration, three-dimensional lithofacies proportion volumes were created. These volumes enable the interpretation of the three-dimensional distribution of the important lithofacies and thus the investigation of sea floor morphology produced by debris-flow events and its impact on succeeding turbidite deposition. These results show that the distribution of debris-flow deposits follows a relatively regular pattern of levées and lobes. When subsequent high-density turbidity currents encountered this mounded debris-flow topography, they slowed and deposited a portion of their sandy high-density loads just upstream of morphological highs. Understanding the depositional patterns of debris flows is key to understanding and predicting the location and character of associated sandstone accumulations. This detailed model of the filling style and the resulting stratigraphic architecture of a debris-flow dominated deep-marine depositional system can be used as an analogue for similar modern and ancient systems.