Sand waves on an epicontinental shelf: Northern Bering Sea

Marine Geology

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Sand waves and current ripples occupy the crests and flanks of a series of large linear sand ridges (20 km ?? 5 km ?? 10 m high) lying in an open-marine setting in the northern Bering Sea. The sand wave area, which lies west of Seward Peninsula and southeast of Bering Strait, is exposed to the strong continuous flow of coastal water northward toward Bering Strait. A hierarchy of three sizes of superimposed bedforms, all facing northward, was observed in successive cruises in 1976 and 1977. Large sand waves (height 2 m; spacing 200 m) have smaller sand waves (height 1 m; spacing 20 m) lying at a small oblique angle on their stoss slopes. The smaller sand waves in turn have linguoid ripples on their stoss slopes. Repeated studies of the sand wave fields were made both years with high-resolution seismic-reflection profiles, side-scan sonographs, underwater photographs, current-meter stations, vibracores, and suspended-sediment samplers. Comparison of seismic and side-scan data collected along profile lines run both years showed changes in sand wave shape that indicate significant bedload transport within the year. Gouge marks made in sediment by keels of floating ice also showed significantly different patterns each year, further documenting modification to the bottom by sediment transport. During calm sea conditions in 1977, underwater video and camera observations showed formation and active migration of linguoid and straight-crested current ripples. Current speeds 1 m above the bottom were between 20 and 30 cm/s. Maximum current velocities and sand wave migration apparently occur when strong southwesterly winds enhance the steady northerly flow of coastal water. Many cross-stratified sand bodies in the geologic record are interpreted as having formed in a tidal- or storm-dominated setting. This study provides an example of formation and migration of large bedforms by the interaction of storms with strong uniform coastal currents in an open-marine setting. ?? 1981.

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Sand waves on an epicontinental shelf: Northern Bering Sea
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Marine Geology
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Marine Geology
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