Until recently, the sedimentary processes on the United States Atlantic Continental Slope were inferred mainly from descriptive studies based on the bathymetry and on widely spaced grab samples, bottom photographs, and seismic-reflection profiles. Over the past 6 years, however, much additional information has been collected on the bottom morphology, characteristics of shallow-subbottom strata, velocity of bottom currents, and transport of suspended and bottom sediments. A review of these new data provides a much clearer understanding of the kinds and relative importance of gravitational and hydrodynamic processes that affect the surface sediments. On the rugged slope between Georges Bank and Cape Lookout, N.C., these processes include: (1) small scale mass wasting within submarine canyons and peripheral gullies; (2) density flows within some submarine valleys; (3) sand spillover near the shelf break; (4) sediment creep on the upper slope; and (5) hemipelagic sedimentation on the middle and lower slope. The area between Georges Bank and Hudson Canyon is further distinguished by the relative abundance of large-scale slump scars and deposits on the open slope, the presence of ice-rafted debris, and the transport of sand within the heads of some submarine canyons. Between Cape Lookout and southern Florida, the slope divides into two physiographic units, and the topography is smooth and featureless. On the Florida-Hatteras Slope, offshelf sand spillover and sediment winnowing, related to Gulf Stream flow and possibly to storm-driven currents, are the major processes, whereas hemipelagic sedimentation is dominant over the offshore slope along the seaward edge of the Blake Plateau north of the Blake Spur. Slumping generally is absent south of Cape Lookout, although one large slump scarp (related to uplift over salt diapirs) has been identified east of Cape Romain. Future studies concerning sedimentary processes on the Atlantic slope need to resolve: (1) the ages and mechanisms of mass wasting; (2) the accumulation rates and thicknesses of hemipelagic sediments; and (3) the causes and variability of offshelf sand spillover, sediment winnowing, and canyon transport. ?? 1984.
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Sedimentary processes on the Atlantic Continental Slope of the United States