The study of turbidite systems covering a wide range of physical scales has led to confus ion regarding the use of certain key terms and hence a breakdown in communication between workers involved in turbidite research. There are three fundamentally different scales and types of observations derived from the study of outcrop data (ancient systems), high-resolution seismic reflection and side scan sonar data (modern systems), and multichannel seismic reflection data (modern and older buried systems). Despite the variability of scale the same terms are used to describe features that may have little in common. Consequently, turbidite system terminology has become imprecise and even misleading in some cases, thus providing impediments to developing useful predictive models for processes, depositional environments, and lateral and vertical distribution of sand bodies within turbidite systems. To address this concern, we review the principal elements critical to deepwater systems: slump scars, submarine canyons, channels, channel fill deposits, overbank deposits, and lobes and discuss some of their recognition criteria with each different type of data base. Local and regional tectonic setting, relative sea level variations, and bottom current activity are probably the main factors that control size, external geometry, internal stratal configuration, and facies characteristics of both modern and ancient turbidite systems. These factors ultimately control the timing and bounding characteristics between stages of growth of deepwater systems. If comparison of elements from different turbidite deposits using various data types is carried out at similar physical and temporal scales, predictive models eventually may be improved.
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Turbidite systems: State of the art and future directions