Fine-grained sediment waves have been observed in many modern turbidite systems, generally restricted to the overbank depositional element. Sediment waves developed on six submarine fan systems are compared using high-resolution seismic-reflection profiles, sediment core samples (including ODP drilling), multibeam bathymetry, 3D seismic-reflection imaging (including examples of burried features), and direct measurements of turbidity currents that overflow their channels. These submarine fan examples extend over more than three orders of magnitude in physical scale. The presence or absence of sediment waves is not simply a matter of either the size of the turbidite channel-levee systems or the dominant initiation process for the turbidity currents that overflow the channels to form the wave fields. Both sediment-core data and seismic-reflection profiles document the upslope migration of the wave forms, with thicker and coarser beds deposited on the up-current flank of the waves. Some wave fields are orthogonal to channel trend and were initiated by large flows whose direction was controlled by upflow morphology, whereas fields subparallel to channel levees resulted from local spillover. In highly meandering systems, sediment waves may mimic meander planform. Larger sediment waves form on channel-levee systems with thicker overflow of turbidity currents, but available data indicate that sediment waves can be maintaned during conditions of relatively thin overflow. Coarser-grained units in sediment waves are typically laminated and thin-bedded sand as much as several centimetres thick, but sand beds as thick as several tens of centimetres have been documented from both modern and buried systems. Current production of hydrocarbons from sediment-wave deposits suggests that it is important to develop criteria for recognising this overbank element in outcrop exposures and borehole data, where the wavelength of typical waves (several kilometres) generally exceeds outcrop scales and wave heights, which are reduced as a result of consolidation during burial, may be too subtle to recognise. Crown Copyright ?? 2002 Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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Variability in form and growth of sediment waves on turbidite channel levees