A perspective view of Monterey Canyon with illustrations of moorings deployed during the Coordinated Canyon Experiment.

The Coordinated Canyon Experiment (CCE) was an extensive long-term effort to monitor the passage of sediment gravity flows (e.g., turbidity currents) at multiple locations simultaneously. Turbidity currents and other sediment gravity flows are the dominant processes carrying sediments and organic carbon along submarine canyons from coastal areas into the deep sea. Turbidity currents can destroy underwater cables, pipelines, and other seafloor infrastructure. Unlike current flows in rivers, submarine turbidity currents are extremely difficult to study and measure. Results of this two-year research project challenged existing paradigms about the causes of turbidity currents, what is their internal vertical velocity and sediment concentration structure, and how they evolve as they flow down canyon. An overview of the experiment and initial main findings were published in Nature Communications in 20181. This website serves as a data repository and report, where all the data and relevant metadata collected throughout this groundbreaking study can be found.

To conduct the experiment, an international team of researchers from Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, National Oceanography Centre, U.S. Geological Survey, Ocean University of China,  University of Hull, University of Southampton, University of Durham, and Southern University of Science and Technology of China, combined their expertise and equipment. By pooling these resources from three continents, it was possible to implement a large monitoring effort to detect and document the passage of turbidity currents within a submarine canyon.

The CCE was conducted in Monterey Canyon, off the coast of Central California, during an 18-month period, between October 2015 and April 2017. The CCE focused on a 50-kilometer stretch of the upper canyon, from depths of 200 to 1,850 meters. Over the course of this study, 15 turbidity currents were detected and documented.

The CCE involved instruments mounted on moorings above the seafloor, deployed on the seafloor and buried in the canyon floor. Current velocity, temperature, and turbidity data were collected during the passage of sediment-laden flows. Additionally, newly developed sensors were used for the first time, monitoring the motion of the seafloor itself. Coupling the sensor observations with bathymetric (seafloor mapping) surveys, and sediment trap samples, the CCE successfully documented turbidity currents as well as the associated changes in seafloor morphology. The resulting data yielded a new and detailed view of one of the major global sediment transport processes on earth.

Map showing Monterey Canyon and the location of the instruments deployed during the CCE

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)
Charles K. Paull, Katherine L. Maier, David W. Caress, Roberto Gwiazda, Eve M. Lundsten, Krystle Anderson, James P. Barry, Chris Lovera, Mark Chaffey, Tom O’Reilly, Brian Kieft, Mike McCann

Departments of Geography and Earth Sciences, Durham University
Peter J. Talling, Matthieu J. Cartigny, Catharina J. Heerema, Natasha Chapplow

National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton Waterfront Campus
Peter J. Talling, Jenny A. Gales, Michael A. Clare

U.S. Geological Survey, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Katherine L. Maier, Kurt J. Rosenberger, Thomas D. Lorenson, Mary McGann, Joanne Ferreira and the Marine Facilities Team

Energy and Environment Institute, University of Hull
Daniel Parsons, Steve M. Simmons

Department of Ocean Science and Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology of China
Jingping Xu

Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology
Jingping Xu

University of Plymouth
Jenny A. Gales

Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton
Esther J. Sumner, Lewis Bailey

Datasets hosted by MGDS have their own DOI and can be cited individually.

Please cite this online data report as follows:

Lundsten, E. (2019). Coordinated Canyon Experiment (CCE) data report. MBARI.org. Retrieved 11/4/2022. from this page.

A dense array of sensors ( more than 50) were deployed for three consecutive six-month periods from October 2015 to April 2017 within Monterey Canyon. Traditional moorings with instruments strung between floatation packages and anchors (railroad wheels) were deployed. Additionally, instruments were mounted on platforms and deployed on and buried in the seafloor. These instruments monitored conditions in the water column and near the seafloor.

Map and illustration show the locations and depth of the instruments deployed in Monterey Canyon as part of the Coordinated Canyon Experiment (CCE). The number of instruments mounted on the moorings and their configuration varied slightly between the three deployments.

Moorings (MS1-MS5, & MS7)

Floats are deployed on mooring.

Six moorings were deployed at depths of 280 to 1,850 meters water depth in Monterey Canyon. Instruments on each mooring were suspended at various depths above the seafloor. Typically, instruments deployed on the moorings were: acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCP), sediment traps with intervalometers to mark time (sediment trap methods), turbidity sensors, CTDs (conductivity, temperature, and depth sensors), and optical backscatter sensors.

Anderson sediment trap (AST)

Sediment trap with CTD and turbidity sensors are deployed on mooring in Monterey Canyon.

Anderson sediment traps are designed to passively collect particulate material as it settles from the water column into a tube. This effectively provides a record of the sediment and particulate matter passing through the water column. After recovery these tubes can be logged with a multi-sensor core logger, and subsequently extruded, and sampled. These sediment traps were deployed on moorings MS1, MS2, MS3, MS4 MS5, and MS7 (see map and illustrations above for locations).

Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP)

An ADCP deployed on a mooring line.

ADCPs measure a profile of current velocity and acoustic backscatter in the water column. They were the backbone of the entire experiment. One was suspended approximately 65 meters above the seafloor looking downward on each of the moorings. All ADCP’s deployed on the moorings were 300 kHz RDI Workhorse Sentinels.

Seafloor Instrument Node (SIN)

SIN is deployed off the R/V Western Flyer.

A seafloor instrument node (SIN) was deployed at a depth of 1,840 meters. The SIN featured three ADCPs (RDI Workhorse Sentinels) of 300, 600 and 1200 kHz frequencies, looking upward from the seafloor and recording data continuously on a common time base. This platform also contained instruments that measured water temperature, salinity, turbidity, and oxygen concentrations at the seafloor.

Benthic Event Detectors (BEDs)

Deploying a benthic event detector in Monterey Bay
Deploying a BED in Monterey Bay.

Several BEDs were deployed partially buried in the canyon floor between 208 to 516 meters water depth. BEDs are designed to be carried down-canyon within sediment gravity flows. BEDs recorded acceleration, rotation and pressure as a function of time as they are transported in the flow.

Acoustic Monitoring Transponder (AMT)

AMT, mounted on a 800 kilogram tripod frame, is deployed in the canyon axis with BED sensor strapped to the side.

An array of three Sonardyne AMTs were placed in Monterey Canyon to monitor seafloor movements. One instrument was placed at 300 meters water depth in the canyon axis and the other two on stable benches on the canyon sides. Each AMT measured the distance to the other instruments as well as recording pitch, roll, temperature, and depth.

McLane profiler (MS6)

McLane profiler is deployed off the R/V Western Flyer.

A vertical McLane profiler was deployed on mooring MS6 at a depth of 1,830 meters. This automated instrument package crawled along the mooring cable, traveling between 7 to 507 meters above the seafloor every 4.5 hours collecting continuous profiles of temperature, current velocity, salinity, depth, and optical backscatter on each of these 30-minute runs.

Wave height sensor (MS0)

MS0 ready to be deployed.

MS0 is an instrument package designed to carry a wave height and current velocity sensor (600 kHz Nortek AWAC). It was deployed in 30 meters water depth on the continental shelf outside the canyon, and also carried instruments that measured, conductivity, temperature, oxygen fluorescence, and optical backscatter.

Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV)

A mapping AUV is recovered after a mapping mission in Monterey Canyon.

Researchers used MBARI’s mapping AUVs to make extremely detailed bathymetric maps of the canyon floor at two sites several times throughout the study.

Wave Gliders

The autonomous surface vehicle Wave Glider

Wave Gliders are essentially robotic, self-propelled surfboards. During the CCE they were used to locate instruments and serve as mobile hot spots to download data from seafloor instruments (i.e., BEDs, AMTs and SIN).



Paull, C.K., P.J. Talling, K.L. Maier, D. Parsons, J. Xu, D.W. Caress, R. Gwiazda, E.M. Lundsten, K. Anderson, J.P. Barry, M. Chaffey, T. O'Reilly, K.J. Rosenberger, J.A. Gales, B. Kieft, M. McGann, S.M. Simmons, M. McCann, E.J. Sumner, M.A. Clare, and J. Cartigny. 2018. Powerful turbidity currents driven by dense basal layers. Nature Communications, 9: 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-06254-6

Symons, W. O., E.J. Sumner, C.K. Paull, M.J.B. Cartigny, J.P. Xu, K.L. Maier, T.D. Lorenson, and P.J. Talling. 2017. A new model for turbidity current behavior based on integration of flow monitoring and precision coring in a submarine canyon. Geology, 45: 367–370. http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/G38764.1

Paull, C.K., D.W. Caress, W. Ussler III, E. Lundsten, and M. Meiner-Johnson 2011. High-resolution bathymetry of the axial channels within Monterey and Soquel submarine canyons, offshore central California. Geosphere, 7: 1077–1101. http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/GES00636.1

Paull, C.K., W. Ussler III, D.W. Caress, E. Lundsten, J. Barry, J.A. Covault, K.L. Maier, J. Xu, and S. Augenstein. 2010. Origins of large crescent-shaped bedforms within the axial channel of Monterey Canyon, offshore California. Geosphere, 6: 755–774. http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/GES00527.1

Paull, C.K., P. Mitts, W. Ussler III, R. Keaten, and H.G. Greene. 2005. Trail of sand in upper Monterey Canyon. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 117: 1134–1145. http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/B25390.1