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The continental rise is an underwater feature found between the continental slope and the abyssal plain. This feature can be found all around the world, and it represents the final stage in the boundary between continents and the deepest part of the ocean. The environment in the continental rise is quite unique, and many oceanographers study it extensively in the hopes of learning more about the ocean and geologic history.[ citation needed ]
An abyssal plain is an underwater plain on the deep ocean floor, usually found at depths between 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) and 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). Lying generally between the foot of a continental rise and a mid-ocean ridge, abyssal plains cover more than 50% of the Earth’s surface. They are among the flattest, smoothest, and least explored regions on Earth. Abyssal plains are key geologic elements of oceanic basins.
At the bottom of the continental slope, one will find the continental rise, an underwater hill composed of tons of accumulated sediments. [ citation needed ] The abyssal plain hosts many unique life forms which are uniquely adapted to survival in its cold, high pressure, and dark conditions.[ citation needed ] The flatness of the abyssal plain is interrupted by massive underwater mountain chains near the tectonic boundaries of the Earth's plates.[ citation needed ] The sediments are mostly sand and pieces of coral or rock.[ citation needed ]The general slope of the continental rise is between 0.5 degrees and 1.0 degrees. Deposition of sediments at the mouth of submarine canyons may form enormous fan-shaped accumulations called submarine fans on both the continental slope and continental rise. Beyond the continental rise stretches the abyssal plain, an extremely deep and flat area of the sea floor.
Sediment is a naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of wind, water, or ice or by the force of gravity acting on the particles. For example, sand and silt can be carried in suspension in river water and on reaching the sea bed deposited by sedimentation. If buried, they may eventually become sandstone and siltstone through lithification.
A canyon or gorge is a deep cleft between escarpments or cliffs resulting from weathering and the erosive activity of a river over geologic timescales. Rivers have a natural tendency to cut through underlying surfaces, eventually wearing away rock layers as sediments are removed downstream. A river bed will gradually reach a baseline elevation, which is the same elevation as the body of water into which the river drains. The processes of weathering and erosion will form canyons when the river's headwaters and estuary are at significantly different elevations, particularly through regions where softer rock layers are intermingled with harder layers more resistant to weathering.
Oceanic trenches are topographic depressions of the sea floor, relatively narrow in width, but very long. These oceanographic features are the deepest parts of the ocean floor. Oceanic trenches are a distinctive morphological feature of convergent plate boundaries, along which lithospheric plates move towards each other at rates that vary from a few millimeters to over ten centimeters per year. A trench marks the position at which the flexed, subducting slab begins to descend beneath another lithospheric slab. Trenches are generally parallel to a volcanic island arc, and about 200 km (120 mi) from a volcanic arc. Oceanic trenches typically extend 3 to 4 km below the level of the surrounding oceanic floor. The greatest ocean depth measured is in the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench, at a depth of 11,034 m (36,201 ft) below sea level. Oceanic lithosphere moves into trenches at a global rate of about 3 km2/yr.
A fall line is the area where an upland region and a coastal plain meet and is typically prominent where rivers cross it, with resulting rapids or waterfalls. The uplands are relatively hard crystalline basement rock, and the coastal plain is softer sedimentary rock. A fall line often will recede upstream as the river cuts out the uphill dense material, forming "c"-shaped waterfalls and exposing bedrock shoals. Because of these features, riverboats typically cannot travel any farther inland without portaging, unless locks are built. The rapid change in elevation of the water and resulting energy release make the fall line a good location for water mills, grist mills, and sawmills. Because of the need for a river port leading to the ocean, and a ready supply of water power, settlements often develop where rivers cross a fall line.
A continental shelf is a portion of a continent that is submerged under an area of relatively shallow water known as a shelf sea. Much of the shelves were exposed during glacial periods and interglacial periods. The shelf surrounding an island is known as an insular shelf.
The benthic zone is the ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water such as an ocean, lake, or stream, including the sediment surface and some sub-surface layers. Organisms living in this zone are called benthos and include microorganisms as well as larger invertebrates, such as crustaceans and polychaetes. Organisms here generally live in close relationship with the substrate and many are permanently attached to the bottom. The benthic boundary layer, which includes the bottom layer of water and the uppermost layer of sediment directly influenced by the overlying water, is an integral part of the benthic zone, as it greatly influences the biological activity that takes place there. Examples of contact soil layers include sand bottoms, rocky outcrops, coral, and bay mud.
The seabed is the bottom of the ocean.
In hydrology, an oceanic basin may be anywhere on Earth that is covered by seawater but geologically ocean basins are large geologic basins that are below sea level. Geologically, there are other undersea geomorphological features such as the continental shelves, the deep ocean trenches, and the undersea mountain ranges which are not considered to be part of the ocean basins; while hydrologically, oceanic basins include the flanking continental shelves and shallow, epeiric seas.
A submarine canyon is a steep-sided valley cut into the seabed of the continental slope, sometimes extending well onto the continental shelf, having nearly vertical walls, and occasionally having canyon wall heights of up to 5 km, from canyon floor to canyon rim, as with the Great Bahama Canyon. Just as above-sea-level canyons serve as channels for the flow of water across land, submarine canyons serve as channels for the flow of turbidity currents across the seafloor. Turbidity currents are flows of dense, sediment laden waters that are supplied by rivers, or generated on the seabed by storms, submarine landslides, earthquakes, and other soil disturbances. Turbidity currents travel down slope at great speed, eroding the continental slope and finally depositing sediment onto the abyssal plain, where the particles settle out.
The Bengal Fan, also known as the Ganges Fan, is the largest submarine fan on Earth. The fan is about 3,000 km (1,900 mi) long, 1,430 km (890 mi) wide with a maximum thickness of 16.5 km (10.3 mi). The fan resulted from the uplift and erosion of the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau produced by the collision between the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. Most of the sediment is supplied by the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers which supply the Lower Meghna delta in Bangladesh and the Hoogly delta in West Bengal (India). Several other large rivers in Bangladesh and India provide smaller contributions. Turbidity currents have transported the sediment through a series of submarine canyons, some of which are more than 1,500 miles (2,414 km) in length, to be deposited in the Bay of Bengal up to 30 degrees latitude from where it began. To date, the oldest sediments recovered from the Bengal fan are from Early Miocene age. Their mineralogical and geochemical characteristics allow to identify their Himalayan origin and demonstrate that the Himalaya was already a major mountain range 20 million years ago.
A passive margin is the transition between oceanic and continental lithosphere that is not an active plate margin. A passive margin forms by sedimentation above an ancient rift, now marked by transitional lithosphere. Continental rifting creates new ocean basins. Eventually the continental rift forms a mid-ocean ridge and the locus of extension moves away from the continent-ocean boundary. The transition between the continental and oceanic lithosphere that was originally created by rifting is known as a passive margin.
The continental margin is one of the three major zones of the ocean floor, the other two being deep-ocean basins and mid-ocean ridges. The continental margin is the shallow water area found in proximity to continent. The continental margin consists of three different features: the continental rise, the continental slope, and the continental shelf. Continental margins constitute about 28% of the oceanic area.
Abyssal fans, also known as deep-sea fans, underwater deltas, and submarine fans, are underwater geological structures associated with large-scale sediment deposition and formed by turbidity currents. They can be thought of as an underwater version of alluvial fans and can vary dramatically in size, with widths from several kilometres to several thousands of kilometres The largest is the Bengal Fan, followed by the Indus Fan, but major fans are also found at the outlet of the Amazon, Congo, Mississippi and elsewhere.
The Integrated Marine and Coastal Regionalisation of Australia (IMCRA), formerly the Interim Marine and Coastal Regionalisation for Australia, is a biogeographic regionalisation of the oceanic waters of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). As of 2008, the most recent version is IMCRA Version 4.0.
Abyssal channels are channels in Earth's sea floor. They are formed by fast-flowing floods of turbid water caused by avalanches near the channel's head, with the sediment carried by the water causing a build-up of the surrounding abyssal plains. Submarine channels and the turbidite systems which form them are responsible for the accumulation of most sandstone deposits found on continental slopes and have proven to be one of the most common types of hydrocarbon reservoirs found in these regions.
Submarine landslides are marine landslides that transport sediment across the continental shelf and into the deep ocean. A submarine landslide is initiated when the downwards driving stress exceeds the resisting stress of the seafloor slope material causing movements along one or more concave to planar rupture surfaces. Submarine landslides take place in a variety of different settings including planes as low as 1° and can cause significant damage to both life and property. Recent advances have been made in understanding the nature and processes of submarine landslides through the use of sidescan sonar and other seafloor mapping technology.
A contourite is a sedimentary deposit commonly formed on continental rise to lower slope settings, although they may occur anywhere that is below storm wave base. Countourites are produced by thermohaline-induced deepwater bottom currents and may be influenced by wind or tidal forces. The geomorphology of contourite deposits is mainly influenced by the deepwater bottom-current velocity, sediment supply, and seafloor topography.
The Northwest Atlantic Mid-Ocean Channel (NAMOC) is the main body of a turbidity current system of channels and canyons running on the sea bottom from the Hudson Strait, through the Labrador Sea and ending at the Sohm Abyssal Plain in the Atlantic Ocean. Contrary to most other such systems which fan away from the main channel, numerous tributaries run into the NAMOC and end there. The density of those tributaries is the highest near the Labrador Peninsula, but the longest tributary, called Imarssuak Mid-Ocean Channel (IMOC), originates in the Atlantic Ocean.
Ocean Networks Canada is a University of Victoria initiative that operates the NEPTUNE and VENUS cabled ocean observatories in the northeast Pacific Ocean and the Salish Sea. Additionally, Ocean Networks Canada operates smaller community-based observatories offshore from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut., Campbell River, Kitamaat Village and Digby Island. These observatories collect data on physical, chemical, biological, and geological aspects of the ocean over long time periods. As with other ocean observatories such as ESONET, Ocean Observatories Initiative, MACHO and DONET, scientific instruments connected to Ocean Networks Canada are operated remotely and provide continuous streams of freely available data to researchers and the public. Over 200 gigabytes of data are collected every day.
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