, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 233–248 | Cite as

Sediment failure types, preconditions and triggering factors in the Gulf of Cadiz

  • D. Leynaud
  • T. Mulder
  • V. Hanquiez
  • E. Gonthier
  • A. Régert
Original Paper


A series of morphological structures, such as scars and escarpments related to seafloor instabilities, were observed in the Gulf of Cadiz using multibeam bathymetry and acoustic imagery. According to the geometry of the slide scars, the slope angle, the surrounding seafloor morphology and the mechanical parameters of the sediment, we suggest the likely mechanisms initiating the failures for the different types of observed structures. Most of the small-scale sediment failures (≤2 km2) seem directly related to dome-like structures (where slopes are steep) or are located in the vicinity of such structures (fluid flows). It appears that progressive deformation or fluid flow related to the growing of dome-like structures may have weakened the sediments sufficiently to bring 7°-steep slopes to metastable conditions (with a factor of safety close to 1.0). The other instability types are likely related to high-magnitude (Ms > 6) earthquakes, which are prone to occur in this area (located in the neighbourhood of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake area). Some particular large-scale structures were observed among these seafloor features, for example on the Guadalquivir Bank. On this bank, a series of successive large scars (at least 4 km long), composed of multiple and very regular arcuate segments (1 km in diameter), were observed at different bathymetric levels (every 40 m). These structures might be related to a deep-rooted detachment zone (e.g. successive listric faults) and triggered by high-magnitude earthquakes or by accumulated displacement along a tectonic discontinuity. This would explain such a large-scale deformation, providing a regular escarpment of 40 m high without any sediment flow downslope, thereby suggesting an ongoing (or unfinished) deformation.


Sediment failures Gulf of Cadiz Stability analysis Mud volcanoes Infinite slope analysis 



The post doc contract was funded by the PRES Bordeaux. The authors would like to express their gratitude towards the Suroît crew and technicians of the University of Bordeaux (EPOC). Thanks to the ANR Isis project. We are grateful to Nabil Sultan, who allowed the use of his 3D numerical model for estimating 3D factors of safety mentioned in this work and to T. Medialdea for providing the HR TASYO8 seismic profile with some useful advices and suggestions.

Supplementary material

10346_2015_674_Fig18_ESM.jpg (47 kb)

(JPG 47 kb)

10346_2015_674_MOESM1_ESM.tif (4.6 mb)
High resolution image (TIF 4737 kb)
10346_2015_674_Fig19_ESM.jpg (44 kb)

(JPG 44 kb)

10346_2015_674_MOESM2_ESM.tif (5.5 mb)
High resolution image (TIF 5645 kb)
10346_2015_674_MOESM3_ESM.docx (12 kb)
ESM 3 (DOCX 11.6 kb)


  1. Bryn P, Berg K, Stoker MS, Haflidason H, Solheim A (2005) Contourites and their relevance for mass wasting along the Mid-Norwegian margin. Mar Pet Geol 22(1–2):85–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Casagrande A (1932) Research on the Atterberg limits of soils. Public Roads 12(3):121-130–136Google Scholar
  3. Chapron E, Van Rensbergen P, De Batist M, Bek C, Henriet J-P (2004) Fluid-escape feature as a precursor of a large sublacustrine sediment slide in Lake Le Bourget, NW Alps, France. Terra Nov. 16(5):305–311Google Scholar
  4. Chen Z, Wang X, Haberfield C, Yin J, Wang Y (2001a) A three-dimensional slope stability analysis method using the upper bound theorem, part I: theory and methods. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 38:369–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen Z, Wang J, Yin J, Wang Y, Haberfield C (2001b) A three-dimensional slope stability analysis method using the upper bound theorem, part II: numerical approaches, applications and extensions. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 38:379–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Duarte JC, Terrinha P, Rosas FM, Valadares V, Pinheiro LM, Matias L, Magalhães V, Roque C (2010) Crescent-shaped morphotectonic features in the Gulf of Cadiz (offshore SW Iberia). Mar Geol 271:236–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Duncan JM (1996) Soil slope stability. In: Turner E, Schuster E (eds) Landslides: investigation and mitigation (special report 247). National Academy, Washington, D.C., pp 337–371Google Scholar
  8. Heezen BC, Ewing M (1952) Turbidity currents and submarine slumps, and the 1929 Grand Banks earthquake. Am J Sci 250:849–873CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hovland M, Svensen H, Forsberg CF et al (2005) Complex pockmarks with carbonate-ridges off mid-Norway: products of sediment degassing. Mar Geol 218:191–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hungr O, Leroueil S, Picarelli L (2014) The Varnes classification of landslide types, an update. Landslides 11(2):167–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jiménez-Munt I, Fernàndez M, Torne M, Bird P (2001) The transition from linear to diffuse plate boundary in the Azores-Gibraltar region: results from a thin-sheet model. Earth Planet Sci Lett 192:175–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kinnison CS (1915) Technological papers of the Bureau of Standards No. 46. A Study of the Atterberg plasticity method. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Standards, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., p 10Google Scholar
  13. Kvalstad TJ, Andresen L, Forsberg CF, Berg K, Bryn P, Wangen M (2005) The Storegga slide: evaluation of triggering sources and slide mechanics. Mar Pet Geol 22(1-2):245–256. doi: 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2004.10.019
  14. Laberg JS, Camerlenghi A (2008) The significance of contourites for submarine slope stability. In: Rebesco M, Camerlenghi A (eds) Contourites, vol 60, Developments in sedimentology. Elsevier, The Netherlands, pp 537–556CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lessard G, Mitchell JK (1985) The causes and effects of aging in quick clays. Can Geotech J 22(3):335–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. León R, Somoza L, Medialdea T, Maestro A, Díaz-del-Río V, Fernández-Puga MC (2006) Classification of sea-floor features associated with methane seeps along the Gulf of Cádiz continental margin. Deep-Sea Res II 53:1464–1481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. León R, Somoza L, Medialdea T, Hernández-Molina FJ, Vázquez JT, Díaz-del-Rio V, González FJ (2010) Pockmarks, collapses and blind valleys in the Gulf of Cádiz. Geo-Mar Lett 30:231–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Leynaud D, Mienert J, Vanneste M (2009) Submarine mass movements on glaciated and non-glaciated European continental margins: a review of triggering mechanisms and preconditions to failure. Mar Petrol Geol 26:618–632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Leynaud D, Sultan N (2010) 3-D slope stability analysis: a probability approach applied to the Nice slope (SE France). Mar Geol 269:89–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Matias LM, Cunha T, Annunziato A, Baptista MA, Carrilho F (2013) Tsunamigenic earthquakes in the Gulf of Cadiz: fault model and recurrence. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. 13, 1-13, 2013, doi: 10.5194/nhess-13-1-2013.
  21. McIver RD (1982) Role of naturally occurring gas hydrates in sediment transport. Am Assoc Petr Geol Bull 66:789–792Google Scholar
  22. Medialdea T, Somoza L, Pinheiro LM, Fernandez-Puga MC, Vazquez JT, Leon R, Ivanov MK, Magalhaes V, Diaz-del-Rio V, Vegas R (2009) Tectonics and mud volcano development in the Gulf of Cadiz. Mar Geol 261:48–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mienert J et al (2005) Ocean warming and gas hydrate stability on the mid-Norwegian mar-gin at the Storegga Slide. Mar Pet Geol 22:233–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mienert J, Vanneste M, Guidard S and Iversen S (2004) NFR Strategisk Universitets pro-sjekt (SUP)—slope stability. Institutt for Geologi, Universitetet I TromsøGoogle Scholar
  25. Mulder T, Cochonat P (1996) Classification of offshore mass movements. J Sediment Res 66(1):43–57Google Scholar
  26. Mulder T, Gonthier E, Lecroart P, Hanquiez V, Marchès E, Voisset M (2009) Sediment failures and flows in the Gulf of Cadiz (Eastern Atlantic). In: V. Gaullier and B. Vendeville. (eds), Mar. and Petrol. Geol. Spec. Issue, 26: 660–672Google Scholar
  27. Nadim F, Krunic D, Jeanjean P (2003) Probabilistic slope stability analyses of the Sigsbee Escarpment. Proceedings, OTC paper 15203, Offshore Technol. Conf. ’03, Houston, Texas, May 2003, pp. 1-8Google Scholar
  28. Nash D (1987) A comparative review of limit equilibrium methods of stability analysis. In: Anderson, M.G., Richards, K.S. (eds.), Slope stability. John Wiley and Sons, pp. 11-75Google Scholar
  29. Piper DJW, Normark WR (2009) Processes that initiate turbidity currents and their influence on turbidites: a marine geology perspective. J Sediment Res 79(5):347–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pro C, Buforn E, Bezzeghoud M, Udias A (2013) The earthquakes of 29 July 2003, 12 February 2007, and 17 December 2009 in the region of Cape Saint Vincent (SW Iberia) and their relation with the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Tectonophysics 583:16–27. doi: 10.1016/j.tecto.2012.10.010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Silva S, Romsdorf M, Matias L, Geissler W, Terrinha P, Carrilho F and NEAREST, W.G. (2010) Characterization of the seismicity in the Gulf of Cadiz based on eleven month monitoring by the NEAREST OBS network EGU General Assembly. Geophys Res Abstr, Vol. 12Google Scholar
  32. Skempton AW, Bjerrum L (1957) A contribution to the settlement analysis of foundations on clay. Geotechnique 7:168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Skempton AW, Hutchinson JN (1969) Stability of natural slopes and embankment foundations, state-of-the-art report. In: Proc. 7th Int. Conf. SMFE, Mexico City, vol. 2, pp. 291-335Google Scholar
  34. Sultan N, Cochonat P, Bourillet JF, Cayocca F, Colliat JL (2001) Analysis of submarine slumping in the Gabon continental slope. AAPG 88(6):781–799CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sultan N, Cochonat P, Foucher JP (2003) Effect of gas hydrate dissociation on seafloor slope stability. Submarine mass movements and their consequences. Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, pp 103–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sultan N, Cochonat P, Foucher JP, Mienert J (2004a) Effect of gas hydrates melting on seafloor slope instability. Mar Geol 213(1):379–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sultan N, Cochonat P, Canals M, Cattaneo A, Dennielou, B, Haflidason H, Laberg J, Long D, Mienert J, Trincardi F, Urgeles R, Vorren T, Wilson C (2004b) Triggering mechanisms of slope instability processes and sediment failures on continental margins: a geotechnical approach. Marine Geology, 213(1-4), 291-321. Publisher’s official version: doi: 10.1016/j.margeo.2004.10.011, Open Access version:
  38. Sultan N, Gaudin M, Berné S, Canals M, Urgeles R, Lafuerza S (2007) Analysis of slope failures in submarine canyon heads: an example from the Gulf of Lions. Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR) - Earth surface, 112(112-F1), NIL_1-NIL_29. Publisher’s official version: doi: 10.1029/2005JF000408, Open Access version:
  39. Terrinha P, Matias L, Vicente J, Duarte J, Luis J, Pinheiro L, Lourenço N, Diez S, Rosas F, Magalhaes V, Valadares V, Zitellini N, Roque C, Mendes Victor L, MATESPRO team (2009) Morphotectonic and strain partitioning at the Iberia-Africa plate boundary from multibeam and seismic reflection data. Mar Geol 267:156–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zitellini N, Chierici F, Sartori R, Torelli L (1999) The tectonic source of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and tsunami. Ann Geofis 42:49–55Google Scholar
  41. Zitellini N, Gracia E, Matias L, Terrinha P, Abreu MA, DeAlteriis G, Henriet JP, Danobeitia JJ, Masson DG, Mulder T, Ramella R, Somoza L, Diez S (2009) The quest for the Africa-Eurasia plate boundary west of the Strait of Gibraltar. Earth and Planet Sci Lett 280:13–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Leynaud
    • 1
    • 2
  • T. Mulder
    • 2
  • V. Hanquiez
    • 2
  • E. Gonthier
    • 2
  • A. Régert
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.G-tec s.a.s.Le Havre CedexFrance
  2. 2.UMR 5805 EPOCUniversité de BordeauxTalence CedexFrance

Personalised recommendations