Depositional processes, bedform development and hybrid bed formation in rapidly decelerated cohesive (mud–sand) sediment flows

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. This is version 1 of this Preprint.


Download Preprint

Supplementary Files

Jaco H Baas, James L Best, Jeffrey Peakall


Flows with high suspended sediment concentrations are common in many sedimentary environments, and their flow properties may show a transitional behaviour between fully turbulent and quasi-laminar plug flows. The characteristics of these transitional flows are known to be a function of both clay concentration and type as well as the applied fluid stress, but so far the interaction of these transitional flows with a loose sediment bed has received little attention. Information on this type of interaction is essential for the recognition and prediction of sedimentary structures formed by cohesive transitional flows in, for example, fluvial, estuarine and deep marine deposits. This paper investigates the behaviour of rapidly decelerated to steady flows that contain a mixture of sand, silt and clay, and explores the effect of different clay (kaolin) concentrations on the dynamics of flow over a mobile bed, and the bedforms and stratification produced. Experiments were conducted in a recirculating slurry flume capable of transporting high clay concentrations. Ultrasonic Doppler velocity profiling was used to measure the flow velocity within these concentrated suspension flows. The development of current ripples under decelerated flows of differing kaolin concentration was documented and evolution of their height, wavelength and migration rate quantified.

This work confirms past work over smooth, fixed beds, which showed that, as clay concentration rises, a distinct sequence of flow types is generated: turbulent flow (TF), turbulence-enhanced transitional flow (TETF), lower transitional plug flow (LTPF), upper transitional plug flow (UTPF) and a quasi-laminar plug flow (QLPF). Each of these flow types produces an initial flat bed upon rapid flow deceleration, followed by reworking of these deposits through the development of current ripples during the subsequent steady flow in TF, TETF and LTPF. The initial flat beds are structureless, but have diagnostic textural properties, caused by differential settling of sand, silt and cohesive mud, which forms characteristic bipartite beds that initially consist of sand overlain by silt or clay. As clay concentration in the formative flow increases, ripples first increase in mean height and wavelength under TETF and LTPF regimes, which is attributed to the additional turbulence generated under these flows that subsequently causes greater leeside erosion. As clay concentration increases further from a LTPF, ripples cease to exist under the UTPF and QLPF conditions investigated herein. This disappearance of ripples appears due to both turbulence suppression at higher clay concentrations, as well as the increasing shear strength of the bed sediment that becomes more difficult to erode as clay concentration increases. The stratification within the ripples formed after rapid deceleration of the transitional flows reflects the availability of sediment from the bipartite bed. The exact nature of the ripple cross-stratification in these flows is a direct function of the duration of the formative flow and the texture of the initial flat bed, and ripples do not to form in cohesive flows with a Reynolds number smaller than ~12,000.

Examples are given of how the unique properties of the current ripples and plane beds, developing below decelerated transitional flows, could aid in the interpretation of depositional processes in modern and ancient sediments. This includes a new model for hybrid beds that explains their formation in terms of a combination of vertical grain-size segregation and longitudinal flow transformation.



Earth Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Sedimentology


laminar flow, turbulent flow, clay, Cohesion, Flume experiments, decelerated flow, hybrid event beds, mixed sand–mud, sediment gravity flows, transitional flow, turbulence modulation


Published: 2018-01-16 07:11


Academic Free License (AFL) 3.0

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.