Coordinated Canyon Experiment (CCE) Data Report

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 Canyon is one of the largest submarine canyons on the west coast of the United States. The canyon head lies just offshore of Moss Landing on the Central California coast. From there, the main channel meanders over 400 kilometers seaward to a depth of more than 4,000 meters on the abyssal plain.

Upper Monterey Canyon was selected for this experiment for multiple reasons. Previous monitoring work demonstrated that the upper canyon is highly dynamic, with multiple turbidity currents occurring each year.2,3 The canyon floor (from 200 – 2200 meters water depth) was mapped with MBARI’s autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) providing one-meter-grid resolution bathymetry4, and extensive sampling characterized the canyon floor deposits. 5,3,6 Moreover, MBARI’s proximity to the canyon provided easy access to the study area.

CCE instruments

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.

CCE repeat mapping data

Repeat, high-resolution, multibeam, bathymetric surveys of the Monterey Canyon floor were conducted with a mapping AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle).

Collaborators

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

References

  1. Paull, C, K., Talling, P.J., Maier, K.L., Parsons, D. , Xu, J., Caress, D.W., Gwiazda, R., Lundsten, E.M., Anderson, K., Barry, J.P., Chaffey, M., O’Reilly, T., Rosenberger, K.J., Gales, J.A., Kieft, B., McGann, M., Simmons, S.M., McCann, M., Sumner, E.J., Clare, M.A. , Cartigny, J., (2018). Powerful turbidity currents driven by dense basal layers. Nature Communications9: 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-06254-6
  2. Xu, J.P., Barry, J.P., Paull, C.K., (2012). Small-scale turbidity currents in a big submarine canyon. Geology41: 143-146. http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/G33727.1
  3. Paull, C.K., Ussler III, W., Caress, D.W., Lundsten, E., Barry, J., Covault, J.A., Maier, K.L., Xu, J., Augenstein, S., (2010). Origins of large crescent-shaped bedforms within the axial channel of Monterey Canyon, offshore California. Geosphere6: 755-774. http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/GES00527.1
  4. Paull, C.K., Caress, D.W., Ussler III, W., Lundsten, E., Meiner-Johnson, M., (2011). High-resolution bathymetry of the axial channels within Monterey and Soquel submarine canyons, offshore central California. Geosphere7: 1077-1101. http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/GES00636.1
  5. Paull, C.K., Mitts, P., Ussler III, W., Keaten, R., Greene, H.G., (2005). Trail of sand in upper Monterey Canyon. Geological Society of America Bulletin117: 1134-1145. http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/B25390.1
  6. Symons, W. O., Sumner, S.J., Paull, C.K., Cartigny, M.J.B., Xu, J.P., Maier, K.L., Lorenson, T.D., Talling, P.J., (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. https://doi.org/10.1130/G38764.1

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 Month, Day, Year, from https://www.mbari.org/science/seafloor-processes/geological-changes/coordinated-canyon-experiment-datareport-main-page/

For additional information, please contact: Eve Lundsten
831-775-1972 eve@mbari.org

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