Chronology of the Fram Slide Complex offshore NW Svalbard and its implications for local and regional slope stability.

Elger, Judith , Berndt, Christian , Krastel, Sebastian, Piper, David J.W., Gross, Felix and Geissler, Wolfram H. (2017) Chronology of the Fram Slide Complex offshore NW Svalbard and its implications for local and regional slope stability. Open Access Marine Geology, 393 . pp. 141-155. DOI 10.1016/j.margeo.2016.11.003.

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Supplementary data:



• The Fram Slide Complex has been active from late Miocene to late Pleistocene.
• Local processes were critical for slope stability in the Fram Strait area.
• Toe erosion caused by normal faulting may have led to retrogressive failure.
• Low gradient contourite drifts might smooth and stabilize submarine slopes.
• Low tsunami potential from the Fram Slide Complex could increase in the future.


The best known submarine landslides on the glaciated NW European continental margins are those at the front of cross-shelf troughs, where the alternation of rapidly deposited glycogenic and hemi pelagic material generates sedimentary overpressure. Here, we investigate landslides in two areas built of contourite drifts bounded seaward by a ridge-transform junction. Seismic and bathymetric data from the Fram Slide Complex are compared with the tectonically similar Vastness area ~ 120 km to the south, to analyze the influence of local and regional processes on slope stability. These processes include tectonic activity, changes of climate and oceanography, gas hydrates and fluid migration systems, slope gradient, toe erosion and style of contourite deposition. Two areas within the Fram Slide Complex underwent different phases of slope failures, whereas there is no evidence at all for major slope failures in the Vastness area. The comparison cannot reveal the distinct reason for slope failure but demonstrates the strong impact of variation in the local controls on slope stability. The different failure chronologies suggest that toe erosion, which is dependent on the throw of normal faults, and the different thickness and geometry of contourite deposits can result in a critical slope morphology and exert pronounced effects on slope stability. These results highlight the limitations of regional hazard assessments and the need for multi-disciplinary investigations, as small differences in local controlling factors led to substantially different slope failure histories.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Fram Strait; Svalbard continental margin; Submarine landslides; Slope stability; Pre-conditioning; Trigger mechanisms; Gas hydrates; MSM31
Research affiliation: AWI
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-GDY Marine Geodynamics
Kiel University
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.margeo.2016.11.003
ISSN: 0025-3227
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2016 13:26
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2019 12:25

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