Geologic hazards resulting from sedimentary, oceanographic and tectonic processes affect more than one third of the offshore Gulf of Cadiz, and are identified by interpreting high-resolution seismic profiles and sonographs. Hazards of sedimentary origin include the occurrence of slope instability processes in the form of single or multiple slumps occupying up to 147 km2 mainly concentrated in the steeper, upper slope area. Besides the presence of steep slopes, the triggering of submarine landslides is probably due to seismic activity and favoured by the presence of biogenic gas within the sediment. Gassy sediments and associated seafloor pockmarks cover more than 240 km2 in the upper slope. Hazards from oceanographic processes result from the complex system of bottom currents created by the interaction of the strong Mediterranean Undercurrent and the rough seafloor physiography. The local intensification of bottom currents is responsible for erosive processes along more than 1900 km2 in the upper slope and in the canyons eroded in the central area of the slope, undermining slopes and causing instability. The strong bottom currents also create a mobile seafloor containing bedforms in an area of the Gulf that extends more than 2500 km2, mostly in the continental slope terraces. Hazards of tectonic origin are important because the Gulf of Cadiz straddles two major tectonic regions, the Azores-Gibraltar fracture zone and the Betic range, which results in diapir uplift over an area of more than 1000 km2, and in active seismicity with earthquakes of moderate magnitude. Also, tsunamis produced by strong earthquakes occur in the Gulf of Cadiz, and are related to the tectonic activity along the Azores-Gibraltar fracture zone.
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Potential geologic hazards on the eastern Gulf of Cadiz slope (SW Spain)