Geo-Marine Letters

, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 481–496 | Cite as

Sediment transport by tropical cyclones recorded in a submarine canyon off Bangladesh

  • Hermann R. KudrassEmail author
  • Björn Machalett
  • Luisa Palamenghi
  • Inka Meyer
  • Wenyan Zhang


Frequent cyclones originating in the Bay of Bengal landfall on the delta coast of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. The cyclones are well recorded in the sediments of a canyon that is deeply incised into the shelf offshore Bangladesh. The large mud supply by the two rivers forms temporary deposits on the innermost shelf, where they are mobilized by waves and currents during the passage of cyclones. The resulting, highly concentrated fine sand-silt-clay suspension is moved by wind-induced currents and eventually plunges into the shelf canyon. These gravity flows are deposited as graded beds on the broad canyon floor. In a 362-cm-long section of a dated sediment core covering the period from 2006 to 1985, nearly all 59 graded beds can be correlated with 42 cyclones observed in that period. The threefold decrease in the sedimentation rate of the last decade compared to the period from 1994 to 1954 is due to the decreased number and power of cyclones. Compared to the sediment transfer by cyclones, the input by local sediment slumps, tidal currents, and monsoonal floods is small. Thus, cyclones dominate the mobilization and distribution of sediment on the Bangladesh shelf. This sediment dispersal mechanism is probably also typical for other shelf areas crossed by tropical cyclones.



BM acknowledges the support by the German Science Foundation (DFG), the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU), and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). IM was supported by CARIMA/BMBF. WZ is supported by the research program “Marine, Coastal and Polar Systems” (PACES II) of the Hermann von Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren e.V. Grain-size analyses were performed by BM at LIAG/Hannover. U. Röhl at MARUM/Bremen did the RFA scan. 137Cs concentrations were determined by the Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie/Hamburg. A former shorter version of the manuscript benefited from the comments of P. Puig, Institut de Ciencies del Mar, Barcelona/Spain, and J. P. Walsh, East Carolina, Greenville/USA. The present manuscript greatly profited from the suggestions of B. Flemming, Senckenberg am Meer, Wilhelmshaven/Germany, and two anonymous reviewers.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

367_2018_550_MOESM1_ESM.docx (47 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 47.4 kb)
367_2018_550_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (105 kb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 105 kb)


  1. Alam M, Alam MM, Curray JR, Chowdhury MLR, Gani MR (2003) An overview of the sedimentary geology of the Bengal Basin in relation to the regional tectonic framework and basin-fill history. Sediment Geol 155:179–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allison MA (1998) Historical changes in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta front. J Coast Res 14:1269–1275Google Scholar
  3. Allison MA, Sheremet A, Goñi MA, Stone GW (2005) Storm layer deposition on the Mississippi–Atchafalaya subaqueous delta generated by hurricane Lili in 2002. Cont Shelf Res 25:2213–2232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Antony C, Testut L, Unnikrishnan AS (2014) Observing storm surges in the Bay of Bengal from satellite altimetry. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 151:131–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Auerbach LW, Goodbred Jr SL, Mondal DR, Wilson CA, Ahmed KR, Roy K, Steckler MS, Small C, Gilligan JM, Ackerly BA (2015) Flood risk of natural and embanked landscapes on the Ganges-Brahmaputra tidal delta plain. Nat Clim Chang 5:153–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barua DK (1990) Suspended sediment movement in the estuary of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river system. Mar Geol 91:243–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barua DK, Kuehl SA, Miller RL, Moore WS (1994) Suspended sediment distribution and residual transport in the coastal ocean off the Ganges-Brahmaputra river mouth. Mar Geol 120:41–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berner U, Poggenburg J, Faber E, Quadfasel D, Frische A (2003) Methane in ocean waters of the Bay of Bengal: its sources and exchange with the atmosphere. Deep-Sea Res Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography 50:925–950CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bonnin J, Heussner S, Calafat A, Fabres J, Palanques A, Durrieu de Madron X, Canals M, Puig P, Avril J, Delsaut N (2008) Comparison of horizontal and downward particle fluxes across canyons of the Gulf of Lions (NW Mediterranean): meteorological and hydrodynamical forcing. Cont Shelf Res 28:1957–1970CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carrasco CA, Landsea CW, Lin Y-L (2014) The influence of tropical cyclone size on its intensification. Weather Forecast 29:582–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carter RM, Larcombe P, Dye JE, Gagan MK, Johnson DP (2009) Long-shelf sediment transport and storm-bed formation by cyclone Winifred, central Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Mar Geol 267:101–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chang GC, Dickey TD, Williams AJ (2001) Sediment resuspension over a continental shelf during hurricanes Edouard and Hortense. J Geophys Res Oceans 106:9517–9531CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chang Y-C, Tseng R-S, Centurioni LR (2010) Typhoon-induced strong surface flows in the Taiwan strait and pacific. J Oceanogr 66:175–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dail MB, Reide Corbett D, Walsh JP (2007) Assessing the importance of tropical cyclones on continental margin sedimentation in the Mississippi delta region. Cont Shelf Res 27:1857–1874CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dalyander PS, Butman B (2015) Characteristics of storms driving wave-induced seafloor mobility on the U.S. East Coast continental shelf. Cont Shelf Res 104:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Emanuel K (2011) Global warming effects on U.S. hurricane damage. Weather, Climate, and Society 3:261–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Flood RP, BarrID WGJ, Roberson S, Russell MI, Meneely J, Orford JD (2018) Provenance and depositional variability of the thin mud facies in the lower Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, West Bengal Sundarbans, India. Mar Geol 395:198–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. French KL, Hein CJ, Haghipour N, Wacker L, Kudrass HR, Eglington TI, Galy V (2018) Millennial soil retention of terrestrial organic matter deposited in the Bengal Fan. Nature. Scientific Reports 8: 11997| DOI:
  19. Galy V, France-Lanord C, Beyssac O, Faure P, Kudrass H, Palhol F (2007) Efficient organic carbon burial in the Bengal fan sustained by the Himalayan erosional system. Nature 450:407–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Girishkumar MS, Ravichandran M (2012) The influences of ENSO on tropical cyclone activity in the Bay of Bengal during October–December. J Geophys Res Oceans 117:C02033. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goodbred JSL, Kuehl SA (2000) Enormous Ganges-Brahmaputra sediment discharge during strengthened early Holocene monsoon. Geology 28:1083–1086CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hanebuth TJJ, Kudrass HR, Linstädter J, Islam B, Zander AM (2013) Rapid coastal subsidence in the central Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta (Bangladesh) since the 17th century deduced from submerged salt-producing kilns. Geology 41:987–990CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hanebuth TJJ, Lantzsch H, Nizou J (2015) Mud depocenters on continental shelves—appearance, initiation times, and growth dynamics. Geo-Mar Lett 35:487–503. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hoarau K, Bernard J, Chalonge L (2012) Intense tropical cyclone activities in the northern Indian Ocean. Int J Climatol 32:1935–1945CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Keen TR, Slingerland RL (1993) Four storm-event beds and the tropical cyclones that produced them; a numerical hindcast. J Sediment Res 63:218–232Google Scholar
  26. Kim KO, Yamashita T, Choi BH (2008) Coupled process-based cyclone surge simulation for the Bay of Bengal. Ocean Model 25:132–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Klotzbach PJ, Landsea CW (2015) Extremely intense hurricanes: revisiting Webster et al. (2005) after 10 years. J Clim 28:7621–7629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Knapp KR, Kruk MC, Levinson DH, Diamond HJ, Neumann CJ (2010) The international best track archive for climate stewardship (IBTrACS). Bull Am Meteorol Soc 91:363–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kottke B, Schwenk T, Breitzke M, Wiedicke M, Kudrass HR, Spiess V (2003) Acoustic facies and depositional processes in the upper submarine canyon Swatch of No Ground (Bay of Bengal). Deep-Sea Res Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanogr 50:979–1001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Krien Y, Testut L, Islam AKMS, Bertin X, Durand F, Mayet C, Tazkia AR, Becker M, Calmant S, Papa F, Ballu V, Shum CK, Khan ZH (2017) Towards improved storm surge models in the northern Bay of Bengal. Cont Shelf Res 135:58–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kudrass HR, Michels KH, Wiedicke M, Suckow A (1998) Cyclones and tides as feeders of a submarine canyon off Bangladesh. Geology 26:715–718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kuehl SA, Allison M-A, Goodbred SL, Kudrass H (2005) The Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta In: Giosan L, Bhattacharya JP (Eds) River deltas–concepts, models, and examples. SEPM Spec Publ 83, pp 413–434Google Scholar
  33. Kuehl SA, Hariu TM, Moore WS (1989) Shelf sedimentation off the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system: evidence for sediment bypassing to the Bengal fan. Geology 17:1132–1135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kuehl SA, Levy BM, Moore WS, Allison MA (1997) Subaqueous delta of the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system. Mar Geol 144:81–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lupker M, France-Lanord C, Galy V, Lavé J, Kudrass H (2013) Increasing chemical weathering in the Himalayan system since the Last Glacial Maximum. Earth Planet Sci Lett 365:243–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Machalett B (2011) Past atmospheric circulation patterns and Aeolian dust dynamics recorded in Eurasian loess: utilizing high-resolution particle size analysis and amino acid geochronology. Mensch & Buch Verlag, Berlin 120 ppGoogle Scholar
  37. Machalett B (2017) WEBINAR: particle size characterization by laser diffraction analysis in geoscience and soil science - background, analyses, application, and interpretation. Beckman Coulter Life Sciences, Particle Size Research Letters 1Google Scholar
  38. Machalett B, Oches EA, Frechen M, Zöller L, Hambach U, Mavlyanova NG, Markovic SB, Endlicher W (2008) Aeolian dust dynamics in central Asia during the Pleistocene: driven by the long-term migration, seasonality, and permanency of the Asiatic polar front. Geochem Geophys Geosyst 9:Q08Q09. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mairs HL, Koch SP, Gordon RB, Cuellar R (1992) The storm current response of Gulf of Mexico hurricanes. In: OnePetro (Eds) Offshore technology conference, 4–7 May 1992, Houston TX, OTC 6833, pp 235–241Google Scholar
  40. McPhaden MJ, Foltz GR, Lee T, Murty VSN, Ravichandran M, Vecchi GA, Vialard J, Wiggert JD, Yu L (2009) Ocean-atmosphere interactions during cyclone Nargis. Eos, Transact AGU 90:53–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Michels KH, Kudrass HR, Hübscher C, Suckow A, Wiedicke M (1998) The submarine delta of the Ganges–Brahmaputra: cyclone-dominated sedimentation patterns. Mar Geol 149:133–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Michels KH, Suckow A, Breitzke M, Kudrass HR, Kottke B (2003) Sediment transport in the shelf canyon “Swatch of No Ground” (Bay of Bengal). Deep-Sea Rese Part II: Topical Studies Oceanogr 50:1003–1022CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Miles T, Seroka G, Kohut J, Schofield O, Glenn S (2015) Glider observations and modeling of sediment transport in hurricane Sandy. J Geophys Res Oceans 120:1771–1791CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mirza MMQ (2002) Global warming and changes in the probability of occurrence of floods in Bangladesh and implications. Glob Environ Chang 12:127–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mooley DA (1980) Severe cyclonic storms in the Bay of Bengal, 1877–1977. Mon Weather Rev 108:1647–1655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mullenbach BL, Nittrouer CA (2006) Decadal record of sediment export to the deep sea via Eel Canyon. Cont Shelf Res 26:2157–2177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Open University (1989) Ocean circulation, 1st edn. Pergamon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  48. Palamenghi L, Schwenk T, Spiess V, Kudrass HR (2011) Seismostratigraphic analysis with centennial to decadal time resolution of the sediment sink in the Ganges–Brahmaputra subaqueous delta. Cont Shelf Res 31:712–730CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Palanques A, Durrieu de Madron X, Puig P, Fabres J, Guillén J, Calafat A, Canals M, Heussner S, Bonnin J (2006) Suspended sediment fluxes and transport processes in the Gulf of Lions submarine canyons. The role of storms and dense water cascading. Mar Geol 234:43–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Palanques A, Guillén J, Puig P, Durrieu de Madron X (2008) Storm-driven shelf-to-canyon suspended sediment transport at the southwestern Gulf of Lions. Cont Shelf Res 28:1947–1956CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Palanques A, Puig P, Durrieu de Madron X, Sanchez-Vidal A, Pasqual C, Martín J, Calafat A, Heussner S, Canals M (2012) Sediment transport to the deep canyons and open-slope of the western Gulf of Lions during the 2006 intense cascading and open-sea convection period. Prog Oceanogr 106:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Parsons JD, Friedrichs CT, Traykovski PA, Mohrig D, Imran J, Syvitski JPM, Parker G, Puig P, Buttles JL, García MH (2009) The mechanics of marine sediment gravity flows. In: Nittrouer CA, Austin JA, Field ME, Kravitz JH, Syvitski JPM, Wiberg PL (eds) Continental margin sedimentation: from sediment transport to sequence stratigraphy. IAS Spec Publ, vol 37, pp 275–337Google Scholar
  53. Puig P, Ogston AS, Mullenbach BL, Nittrouer CA, Parsons JD, Sternberg RW (2004) Storm-induced sediment gravity flows at the head of the Eel submarine canyon, northern California margin. J Geophys Res Oceans 109:C03019. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Puig P, Palanques A, Martin J (2014) Contemporary sediment-transport processes in submarine canyons. Annu Rev Mar Sci 6:53–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Puig P, Palanques A, Orange DL, Lastras G, Canals M (2008) Dense shelf water cascades and sedimentary furrow formation in the Cap de Creus Canyon, northwestern Mediterranean Sea. Cont Shelf Res 28:2017–2030CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rahman AF, Dragoni D, El-Masri B (2011) Response of the Sundarbans coastline to sea level rise and decreased sediment flow: a remote sensing assessment. Remote Sens Environ 115:3121–3128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rogers KG, Goodbred JSL (2010) Mass failures associated with the passage of a large tropical cyclone over the Swatch of No Ground submarine canyon (Bay of Bengal). Geology 38:1051–1054CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rogers KG, Goodbred SL, Mondal DR (2013) Monsoon sedimentation on the ‘abandoned’ tide-influenced Ganges–Brahmaputra delta plain. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 131:297–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Ross CB, Gardner WD, Richardson MJ, Asper VL (2009) Currents and sediment transport in the Mississippi Canyon and effects of hurricane Georges. Cont Shelf Res 29:1384–1396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sarwar MGM, Woodroffe CD (2013) Rates of shoreline change along the coast of Bangladesh. J Coast Conserv 17:515–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Serno S, Winckler G, Anderson RF, Hayes CT, McGee D, Machalett B, Ren H, Straub SM, Gersonde R, Haug GH (2014) Eolian dust input to the subarctic North Pacific. Earth Planet Sci Lett 387:252–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Shahjahan M (1970) Factors controlling the geometry of fluvial meanders. Int Ass Sci Hydrol Bull 15:13–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Shanmugan G (2008) The constructive functions of tropical cyclones and tsunamis during deep-water sand deposition during sea level highstand. AAPG Bull 92:443–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Shay LK, Elsberry RL, Black PG (1989) Vertical structure of the ocean current response to a hurricane. J Phys Oceanogr 19:649–669CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Stow DAV, Piper DJW (1984) Deep-water fine-grained sediments: facies models. Geol Soc Lond Spec Publ 15:611–646CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Suckow A, Morgenstern U, Kudrass H-R (2001) Absolute dating of recent sediments in the cyclone-influenced shelf area off Bangladesh: comparison of gamma spectrometric (137Cs, 210Pb, 228Ra), radiocarbon, and 32Si ages. Radiocarbon 43:917–927CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Symons WO, Sumner EJ, Paull CK, Cartigny MJB, Xu JP, Maier KL, Lorenson TD, Talling PJ (2017) A new model for turbidity current behavior based on integration of flow monitoring and precision coring in a submarine canyon. Geology 45:367–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Ulses C, Estournel C, Puig P, Durrieu de Madron X, Marsaleix P (2008) Dense shelf water cascading in the northwestern Mediterranean during the cold winter 2005: quantification of the export through the Gulf of Lion and the Catalan margin. Geophys Res Lett 35:L07610. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Walsh JP, Nittrouer CA (2009) Understanding fine-grained river-sediment dispersal on continental margins. Mar Geol 263:34–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Warner JC, Sherwood CR, Signell RP, Harris CK, Arango HG (2008) Development of a three-dimensional, regional, coupled wave, current, and sediment-transport model. Comput Geosci 34:1284–1306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Webster PJ, Holland GJ, Curry JA, Chang H-R (2005) Changes in tropical cyclone number, duration, and intensity in a warming environment. Science 309:1844–1846CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wilson CA, Goodbred SLJ (2015) Construction and maintenance of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta: linking process, morphology, and stratigraphy. Annu Rev Mar Sci 7:67–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wright LD, Friedrichs CT (2006) Gravity-driven sediment transport on continental shelves: a status report. Cont Shelf Res 26:2092–2107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wright LD, Friedrichs CT, Kim SC, Scully ME (2001) Effects of ambient currents and waves on gravity-driven sediment transport on continental shelves. Mar Geol 175:25–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Xu JP, Noble M, Eittreim SL, Rosenfeld LK, Schwing FB, Pilskaln CH (2002) Distribution and transport of suspended particulate matter in Monterey Canyon, California. Mar Geol 181:215–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Zhang W, Cui Y, Santos AI, Hanebuth TJJ (2016) Storm-driven bottom sediment transport on a high-energy narrow shelf (NW Iberia) and development of mud depocenters. J Geophys Res Oceans 121:5751–5772CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MARUMBremenGermany
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  3. 3.Department of Natural and Applied SciencesBentley UniversityWalthamUSA
  4. 4.Institute of Geography, ClimatologyHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Renard Centre of Marine GeologyUniversity of GentGhentBelgium
  6. 6.Institute of Coastal ResearchGeesthachtGermany

Personalised recommendations