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Origin of Submarine Channel North of Hanish Sill, Red Sea

  • Neil C. Mitchell
  • Sarantis S. Sofianos
Chapter

Abstract

Submarine channels several kilometres wide can be found near sills between major basins but they typically lie on the sides of the sills where dense bottom waters passing between the basins form gravity currents. In the southernmost Red Sea, in contrast, an 8 km-wide and 100- to 250-m deep channel lies on the north side of Hanish Sill, in an area where the strongest bottom currents flow southward, associated with winter expulsion of dense saline Red Sea deep water. Current meter data collected 10 m or more above the seabed over the sill reveal speeds occasionally exceeding 1 m s−1, which are sufficient to mobilize very coarse sand and have likely prevented deposition of finer sediments in the channel, particularly for parts of the channel affected by Red Sea Outflow Water (RSOW). However, the channel extends below 200 m depths, where Red Sea Deep Water is more sluggish (typically <1 cm s−1). Although the stronger currents may help to maintain the upper channel morphology, it is unclear how they would have created the channel, nor can modern currents explain the deeper parts of the channel. The channel is straight and runs parallel with the spreading rift to the north, suggesting that faults may underlie the channel, though a tectonic origin (graben) is not supported by Bouguer gravity anomalies, which reveal no underlying structure. Alternatively, the channel may have originated much earlier, from massive inflow of Indian Ocean water into the Red Sea following earlier isolation and drawdown of its level. These and other possible origins of the channel are discussed in the light of limited public data from the area.

Notes

Acknowledgements

Rose Anne Weissel is thanked for help in locating and scanning the RV Conrad data used in this study. All other data besides the current meter records used here were obtained from public sources (http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/, http://www.geomapapp.org/, http://topex.ucsd.edu/). Andrew Goodwillie clarified the origin of data contributing to the GMRT grid in this area. Eelco Rohling explained why deep drawdown was unlikely to have occurred in the late Pleistocene. We would like to thank the Saudi Geological Survey for organizing the publication of this book on the Red Sea. Thanks also to Graeme Eagles for reviewing an earlier version of this chapter and to the three anonymous reviewers of the present chapter for helpful comments. Figures in this article were created with the “GMT” software system (Wessel and Smith 1991).

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.Department of PhysicsUniversity of AthensAthensGreece

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