Skip to main content

River-plume sedimentation and 210Pb/7Be seabed delivery on the Mississippi River delta front

Abstract

To constrain the timing and processes of sediment delivery and submarine mass-wasting events spanning the last few decades on the Mississippi River delta front, multi-cores and gravity cores (0.5 and <3 m length respectively) were collected seaward of the Mississippi River Southwest Pass in 25–75 m water depth in 2014. The cores were analyzed for radionuclide activity (7Be, 210Pb, 137Cs), grain size, bulk density, and fabric (X-radiography). Core sediments are faintly bedded, sparsely bioturbated, and composed mostly of clay and fine silt. Short-term sedimentation rates (from 7Be) are 0.25–1.5 mm/day during river flooding, while longer-term accumulation rates (from 210Pb) are 1.3–7.9 cm/year. In most cores, 210Pb activity displays undulatory profiles with overall declining activity versus depth. Undulations are not associated with grain size variations, and are interpreted to represent variations in oceanic 210Pb scavenging by river-plume sediments. The 210Pb profile of one gravity core from a mudflow gully displays uniform basal excess activity over a zone of low and uniform bulk density, interpreted to be a mass-failure event that occurred 9–18 years before core collection. Spatial trends in sediment deposition (from 7Be) and accumulation (from 210Pb) indicate that proximity to the river mouth has stronger influence than local facies (mudflow gully, depositional lobe, prodelta) over the timeframe and seabed depth represented by the cores (<40 years, <3 m length). This may be explained by rapid proximal sediment deposition from river plumes coupled with infrequent tropical cyclone activity near the delta in the last 7 years (2006–2013), and by the location of most sediment failure surfaces (from mass flows indicated by parallel geophysical studies) deeper than the core-sampling depths of the present study.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11

References

  • Allison MA, Sheremet A, Goni MA, Stone GW (2005) Storm layer deposition on the Mississippi-Atchafalaya subaqueous delta generated by Hurricane Lili in 2002. Cont Shelf Res 25:2213–2232. doi:10.1016/j.csr.2005.08.023

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Allison MA, Demas CR, Ebersole BA, Kleiss BA, Little CD, Meselhe EA, Powell NJ, Pratt TC, Vosburg BM (2012) A water and sediment budget for the lower Mississippi–Atchafalaya River in flood years 2008–2010: implications for sediment discharge to the oceans and coastal restoration in Louisiana. J Hydrol 432-433:84–97. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.02.020

  • Bea RG (1971) How sea floor slides affect offshore structures. Oil Gas J 69:88–92

    Google Scholar 

  • Bentley SJ Sr (2002) Dispersal of fine sediments from river to shelf: process and product. Gulf Coast Assoc Geol Soc Trans 52:1055–1067

    Google Scholar 

  • Bentley SJ, Nittrouer CA (2003) Emplacement, modification, and preservation of event strata on a flood-dominated continental shelf: Eel shelf, Northern California. Cont Shelf Res 23:1465–1493. doi:10.1016/j.csr.2003.08.005

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bentley SJ, Furukawa Y, Vaughan WC (2000) Record of event sedimentation in Mississippi Sound. Gulf Coast Assoc Geol Soc Trans 50:715–723

    Google Scholar 

  • Bentley SJ, Keen TR, Blain CA, Vaughan WC (2002) The origin and preservation of a major hurricane event bed in the northern Gulf of Mexico: Hurricane Camille, 1969. Mar Geol 186:423–446. doi:10.1016/S0025-3227(02)00297-9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bentley SJ Sr, Blum MD, Maloney J, Pond L, Paulsell R (2015) The Mississippi River source-to-sink system: perspectives on tectonic, climatic, and anthropogenic influences, Miocene to Anthropocene. Earth-Sci Rev 153:139–174. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2015.11.001

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blum MD, Roberts HH (2009) Drowning of the Mississippi Delta due to insufficient sediment supply and global sea-level rise. Nat Geosci 2:488–491. doi:10.1038/ngeo553

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blum MD, Roberts HH (2012) The Mississippi Delta region: past, present, and future. Annu Rev Earth Planet Sci 40:655–683

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bouma AH, Roberts HH, Coleman JM, Prior DB (1991) Delta-front gullies as part of mass-movement phenomena; Mississippi River delta front. Special Publication SEPM 46:99–105

    Google Scholar 

  • Cochran JK, Masqué P (2003) Short-lived U/Th series radionuclides in the ocean: tracers for scavenging rates, export fluxes and particle dynamics. Rev Mineral Geochem 52:461–492. doi:10.2113/0520461

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Coleman JM, Prior DB, Garrison LE (1978) Submarine landslides in the Mississippi River Delta. Proc Offshore Technology Conf 10. doi:10.4043/3170-MS

  • Coleman JM, Prior DB, Garrison LE (1980) Subaqueous sediment instabilities in the offshore Mississippi River delta. Open File Report 80-02. US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management

  • Corbett DR, McKee B, Duncan D (2004) An evaluation of mobile mud dynamics in the Mississippi River deltaic region. Mar Geol 209:91–112. doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2004.05.028

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Corbett DR, McKee B, Allison MA (2006) Nature of decadal-scale sediment accumulation on the western shelf of the Mississippi River delta. Cont Shelf Res 26:2125–2140. doi:10.1016/j.csr.2006.07.012

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Corbett DR, Dail M, McKee B (2007) High-frequency time-series of the dynamic sedimentation processes on the western shelf of the Mississippi River delta. Cont Shelf Res 27:1600–1615. doi:10.1016/j.csr.2007.01.025

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Denommee K, Bentley S (2013) Influence of mass-transport processes on clinoform mechanics on the southwest Louisiana Shelf. Gulf Coast Assoc Geol Soc Trans 63:205–212

    Google Scholar 

  • Denommee K, Bentley SJ Sr, Harazim D, Macquaker JHS (2016) Hydrodynamic controls on sedimentary fabric development in a shelf clinothem: Southwest Louisiana Continental Shelf. Mar Geol. doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2016.09.013

    Google Scholar 

  • Droser ML, Bottjer DJ (1986) A semiquantitative field classification of ichnofabric: research method paper. J Sed Res 56:558–559

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Galloway WE (1975) Process framework for describing the morphologic and stratigraphic evolution of deltaic depositional systems. In: Broussard ML (ed) Deltas: Models for exploration. Houston Geologic Survey, Houston, TX, pp 87–98

    Google Scholar 

  • Goni MA, Alleau Y, Corbett DR, Walsh JP, Mallinson D, Allison MA, Gordon E, Petsch S, Dallapenna TM (2007) The effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the seabed of the Louisiana shelf. Sed Record 5:4–9

    Google Scholar 

  • Guidroz WS (2009) Subaqueous, hurricane-initiated shelf failure morphodynamics along the Mississippi River Delta Front, North-Central Gulf of Mexico. Dissertation, Louisiana State University and A&M

  • Hart BS, Hamilton TS, Barrie JV (1998) Sedimentation rates and patterns on a deep-water delta (Fraser Delta, Canada): integration of high-resolution seismic stratigraphy, core lithofacies, and 137Cs fallout stratigraphy. J Sediment Res 68:556–568

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hirschberg DJ, Schubel JR (1979) Recent geochemical history of flood deposits in the northern Chesapeake Bay. Estuar Coastajourl Mar Sci 9:771–777. doi:10.1016/S0302-3524(79)80010-9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hooper JR, Suhayda JN (2005) Hurricane Ivan as a geologic force: Mississippi Delta Front seafloor failures. Proc Offshore Technology Conf Paper no 17737. doi:10.4043/17737-MS

  • Hülse P, Bentley SJ (2012) A 210Pb sediment budget and granulometric record of sediment fluxes in a subarctic deltaic system: the Great Whale River, Canada. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 109:41–52. doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2012.05.019

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kaiser MJ, Yu Y, Jablonowski CJ (2009) Modeling lost production from destroyed platforms in the 2004–2005 Gulf of Mexico hurricane seasons. Energy 34:1156–1171

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keen TR, Bentley SJ, Chad Vaughan W, Blain CA (2004) The generation and preservation of multiple hurricane beds in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Mar Geol 210:79–105. doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2004.05.022

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keen T, Furukawa Y, Bentley S, Slingerland R, Teague W, Dykes J, Rowley C (2006) Geological and oceanographic perspectives on event bed formation during Hurricane Katrina. Geophys Res Lett 33, L23614. doi:10.1029/2006GL027981

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keen TR, Slingerland RL, Bentley SJ Sr, Furukawa Y, Teague WJ, Dykes J (2012) Sediment transport on continental shelves: storm bed formation and preservation in heterogeneous sediments. Int Assoc Sedimentol Spec Publ 44:295–310

    Google Scholar 

  • Kemp GP, Willson CS, Rogers JD, Westphal KA, Binselam SA (2014) Adapting to change in the lowermost Mississippi River: implications for navigation, flood control and restoration of the delta ecosystem. In: Perspectives on the Restoration of the Mississippi Delta. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 51–84

  • Lee HJ, Greene HG, Edwards BD, Fisher MA, Normark WR (2009) Submarine landslides of the Southern California Borderland. Special Paper Geol Soc Am 454:251–269. doi:10.1130/2009.2454(4.3)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meade RH (1996) River-sediment inputs to major deltas. In: Coastal Systems and Continental Margins, vol 2: Sea-level rise and coastal subsidence. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 63–85

  • Moore DG, Scruton PC (1957) Minor internal structures of some recent unconsolidated sediments. AAPG Bull 41:2723–2751

    Google Scholar 

  • Muhammad Z, Bentley SJ, Febo LA, Droxler AW, Dickens GR, Peterson LC, Opdyke BN (2008) Excess 210Pb inventories and fluxes along the continental slope and basins of the Gulf of Papua. J Geophys Res Earth Surf 113:F01S17. doi:10.1029/2006JF000676

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mullenbach B, Nittrouer C (2006) Decadal record of sediment export to the deep sea via Eel Canyon. Cont Shelf Res 26:2157–2177

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nittrouer C, Sternberg R (1981) The formation of sedimentary strata in an allochthonous shelf environment: the Washington continental shelf. Mar Geol 42:201–232

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nittrouer CA, DeMaster DJ, McKee BA, Cutshall NH, Larsen IL (1984) The effect of sediment mixing on Pb-210 accumulation rates for the Washington continental shelf. Mar Geol 54:201–221. doi:10.1016/0025-3227(84)90038-0

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prior DB, Coleman JM (1982) Active slides and flows in underconsolidated marine sediments on the slopes of the Mississippi Delta. In: NATO Conference Series, vol 6: Marine slides and other mass movements, vol 6. Plenum, New York, pp 21–49

  • Prior DB, Suhayda JN (1979) Submarine mudslide morphology and development mechanisms, Mississippi Delta. Proc Offshore Technol Conf 11:1055–1061. doi:10.4043/3482-MS

    Google Scholar 

  • Prior D, Suhayda JN, Lu NZ, Bornhold BD, Keller GH, Wiseman WJ, Wright LD, Yang ZS (1989) Storm wave reactivation of a submarine landslide. Nature 341:47–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robbins JA, Edgington DN (1975) Determination of recent sedimentation rates in Lake Michigan using Pb-210 and Cs-137. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 39:285–304

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rotondo K (2004) Transport and deposition of fluid mud event layers along the Western Louisiana Inner Shelf. Thesis, Louisiana State University and A&M

  • Rotondo KA, Bentley SJ (2003) Deposition and resuspension of fluid mud on the western Louisiana inner shelf. Gulf Coast Assoc Geol Soc Trans 53:722–731

    Google Scholar 

  • Shepard FP (1955) Delta-front valleys bordering the Mississippi distributaries. Geol Soc Am Bull 66:1489–1498. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(1955)66[1489:Dvbtmd]2.0.Co;2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Slingerland R, Driscoll NW, Milliman JD, Miller SR, Johnstone EA (2008) Anatomy and growth of a Holocene clinothem in the Gulf of Papua. J Geophys Res Earth Surf 113:F01S13. doi:10.1029/2006JF000628

    Google Scholar 

  • Sommerfield CK, Nittrouer CA (1999) Modern accumulation rates and a sediment budget for the Eel shelf: a flood-dominated depositional environment. Mar Geol 154:227–241

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sommerfield CK, Nittrouer CA, Alexander CR (1999) 7Be as a tracer of flood sedimentation on the northern California continental margin. Cont Shelf Res 19:335–361. doi:10.1016/S0278-4343(98)00090-9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sterling GH, Strohbeck EE (1973) The failure of the South Pass 70 “B” Platform Hurricane Camille. Proc Offshore Technol Conf 27:263–268. doi:10.4043/1898-MS

    Google Scholar 

  • Sultan N, Voisset M, Marsset B, Marsset T, Cauquil E, Colliat J-L (2007) Potential role of compressional structures in generating submarine slope failures in the Niger Delta. Mar Geol 237:169–190. doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2006.11.002

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • USACE (2015) Miss River Discharge Hydrograph. United States Army Corp of Engineers. http://rivergages.mvr.usace.army.mil/WaterControl/Districts/MVN/tar.gif. Accessed 13 Nov 2015

  • Walsh JP, Nittrouer CA (2009) Understanding fine-grained river-sediment dispersal on continental margins. Mar Geol 263:34–45. doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2009.03.016

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walsh JP, Corbett DR, Mallinson D, Goni M, Dail M, Lowey K, Marcinak K, Ryan K, Smith C, Stevens A, Sumners B, Tesh T (2006) Mississippi Delta mudflow activity and 2005 Gulf Hurricanes. EOS Trans Am Geophys Union 87:477–478

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wright L, Coleman JM (1973) Variations in morphology of major river deltas as functions of ocean wave and river discharge regimes. AAPG Bull 57:370–398

    Google Scholar 

  • Wright LD, Nittrouer CA (1995) Dispersal of river sediments in coastal seas - 6 Contrasting cases. Estuaries 18:494–508. doi:10.2307/1352367

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wright L, Friedrichs C, Kim S, Scully M (2001) Effects of ambient currents and waves on gravity-driven sediment transport on continental shelves. Mar Geol 175:25–45

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Xu K, Harris CK, Hetland RD, Kaihatu JM (2011) Dispersal of Mississippi and Atchafalaya sediment on the Texas-Louisiana shelf: model estimates for the year 1993. Cont Shelf Res 31:1558–1575. doi:10.1016/j.csr.2011.05.008

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Xu K, Mickey RC, Chen Q, Harris CK, Hetland RD, Hu K, Wang J (2015) Shelf sediment transport during hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Comput Geosci 90:24–39. doi:10.1016/j.cageo.2015.10.009

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Young DR (2014) Examination of the 2011 Mississippi River flood deposit on the Louisiana continental shelf. Thesis, East Carolina University

Download references

Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the Department of Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, under the cooperative agreement M13AC00013, via the Louisiana State University Coastal Marine Institute program. We would like to thank the field support group of the Coastal Studies Institute of Louisiana State University for their invaluable help during field operations, as well as all others who assisted. We are grateful to all of the undergraduate students who performed laboratory analyses. Also acknowledged are Jeffrey Obelcz for helpful input, two reviewers for constructive assessments of an earlier version of this article, as well as the journal editors.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Samuel J. Bentley.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest with third parties.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Keller, G., Bentley, S.J., Georgiou, I.Y. et al. River-plume sedimentation and 210Pb/7Be seabed delivery on the Mississippi River delta front. Geo-Mar Lett 37, 259–272 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00367-016-0476-0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00367-016-0476-0

Keywords

  • 210Pb
  • Tropical Cyclone
  • River Plume
  • Sediment Accumulation Rate
  • 210Pb Activity