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Research Technical Report

Physiography of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Implications about Continental Margin Development

Greene, H.G., N.M. Maher, and C.K. Paull (2002)

Marine Geology 181:55-82.


Combined EM-300 multibeam bathymetric data and satellite photography reveal the physiography of the continental margin between 35°50' and 37°03'N and from the shoreline west of 122°40' and 122°37'W, which includes Monterey Bay, in a previously unprecedented detail. Patterns in these images clearly reveal the processes that are actively influencing the current geomorphology of the Monterey Bay region, including the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). Our data indicates that seafloor physiography within the MBNMS results from plate margin tectonic deformation, including uplift and erosion along structural lineaments, and from fluid flow. Mass wasting is the dominant process active within the Ascension-Monterey and Sur-Partington submarine canyon systems and along the lower slopes. Meanders, slump dams, and constricted channels within the submarine canyons, especially within Monterey Canyon, slow and interrupt down-canyon sediment transport. We have identified for the first time thin sediment flows, rotational slumps, rill, depressions that may be associated with pipes, and other fluid-induced features we call 'scallops' off the Ascension slope, and suggest that fluid flow has sculptured the seafloor morphologies here. These unusual seafloor morphologies are similar to morphologies found in terrestrial areas modified by groundwater flow.

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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