Turbidity currents are a gravity-driven, sediment-laden flow, like a landslide or avalanche that occurs underwater. They are extremely turbulent flows with a well-defined leading edge, called a head. Turbidity currents are often triggered by earthquakes, which shake loose sediments previously deposited in underwater mountains and canyons. Once suspended, these sediments make the fluid denser than surrounding water, causing the turbidity current to flow downhill until its energy is expended and its sediment settles to form a turbidite deposit. By sampling cores from the seafloor, scientists studying turbidites can determine when and where magnitude 8+ earthquakes have occurred over the past 12,000+ years! (Video credit: A. Teijen et al.; submitted by Simon H.)
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