Chronology of the Fram Slide Complex offshore NW Svalbard and its implications for local and regional slope stability

Wolfram.Geissler [ at ]


The best known submarine landslides on the glaciated NW European continental margins are those at the front of cross-shelf troughs, where the alternation of rapidly deposited glycogenic and hemi pelagic material generates sedimentary overpressure. Here, we investigate landslides in two areas built of contourite drifts bounded seaward by a ridge-transform junction. Seismic and bathymetric data from the Fram Slide Complex are compared with the tectonically similar Vastness area ~120km to the south, to analyze the influence of local and regional processes on slope stability. These processes include tectonic activity, changes of climate and oceanography, gas hydrates and fluid migration systems, slope gradient, toe erosion and style of contourite deposition. Two areas within the Fram Slide Complex underwent different phases of slope failures, whereas there is no evidence at all for major slope failures in the Vastness area. The comparison cannot reveal the distinct reason for slope failure but demonstrates the strong impact of variation in the local controls on slope stability. The different failure chronologies suggest that toe erosion, which is dependent on the throw of normal faults, and the different thickness and geometry of contourite deposits can result in a critical slope morphology and exert pronounced effects on slope stability. These results highlight the limitations of regional hazard assessments and the need for multi-disciplinary investigations, as small differences in local controlling factors led to substantially different slope failure histories.

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DOI 10.1016/j.margeo.2016.11.003

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Elger, J. , Berndt, C. , Krastel, S. , Piper, D. J. W. , Gross, F. and Geissler, W. (2017): Chronology of the Fram Slide Complex offshore NW Svalbard and its implications for local and regional slope stability , Marine Geology, 393 , pp. 141-155 . doi: 10.1016/j.margeo.2016.11.003

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