University of Tasmania

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The possible role of Coriolis forces in structuring large-scale sinuous patterns of submarine channel-levee systems

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 03:34 authored by Wells, M, Remo Cossu
Submarine channel-levee systems are among the largest sedimentary structures on the ocean floor. These channels have a sinuous pattern and are the main conduits for turbidity currents to transport sediment to the deep ocean. Recent observations have shown that their sinuosity decreases strongly with latitude, with high-latitude channels being much straighter than similar channels near the Equator. One possible explanation is that Coriolis forces laterally deflect turbidity currents so that at high Northern latitudes both the density interface and the downstream velocity maximum are deflected to the right-hand side of the channel (looking downstream). The shift in the velocity field can change the locations of erosion and deposition and introduce an asymmetry between left- and right-turning bends. The importance of Coriolis forces is defined by two Rossby numbers, RoW =U/Wf and RoR =U/Rf, where U is the mean downstream velocity, W is the width of the channel, R is the radius of curvature and f is the Coriolis parameter. In a bending channel, the density interface is flat when RoR ∼-1, and Coriolis forces start to shift the velocity maximum when |RoW|<5. We review recent experimental and field observations and describe how Coriolis forces could lead to straighter channels at high latitudes. © 2013 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


Publication title

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences










Australian Maritime College


Royal Soc London

Place of publication

6 Carlton House Terrace, London, England, Sw1Y 5Ag

Rights statement

Copyright 2013 The Authors

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Water transport not elsewhere classified