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A giant, submarine creep zone as a precursor of large-scale slope instability offshore the Dongsha Islands (South China Sea)

Li, Wei, Alves, Tiago Marcos, Wu, Shiguo, Rebesco, Michele, Zhao, Fang, Mi, Lijun and Ma, Benjun 2016. A giant, submarine creep zone as a precursor of large-scale slope instability offshore the Dongsha Islands (South China Sea). Earth and Planetary Science Letters 451 , pp. 272-284. 10.1016/j.epsl.2016.07.007

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A giant submarine creep zone exceeding 800 km2 on the continental slope offshore the Dongsha Islands, South China Sea, is investigated using bathymetric and 3D seismic data tied to borehole information. The submarine creep zone is identified as a wide area of seafloor undulations with ridges and troughs. The troughs form NW- and WNW-trending elongated depressions separating distinct seafloor ridges, which are parallel or sub-parallel to the continental slope. The troughs are 0.8–4.7 km-long and 0.4 to 2.1 km-wide. The ridges have wavelengths of 1–4 km and vertical relief of 10–30 m. Slope strata are characterised by the presence of vertically stacked ridges and troughs at different stratigraphic depths, but remaining relatively stationary in their position. The interpreted ridges and troughs are associated with large-scale submarine creep, and the troughs can be divided into three types based on their different internal characters and formation processes. The large-scale listric faults trending downslope below MTD 1 and horizon T0 may be the potential glide planes for the submarine creep movement. High sedimentation rates, local fault activity and the frequent earthquakes recorded on the margin are considered as the main factors controlling the formation of this giant submarine creep zone. Our results are important to the understanding of sediment instability on continental slopes as: a) the interpreted submarine creep is young, or even active at present, and b) areas of creeping may evolve into large-scale slope instabilities, as recorded by similar large-scale events in the past.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Subjects: Q Science > QE Geology
Uncontrolled Keywords: South China Sea; continental slope; seafloor undulations; submarine creep; landslides
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0012-821X
Date of Acceptance: 5 July 2016
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 09:20

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