Geomorphic characterization of the U.S. Atlantic continental margin Academic Article uri icon


  • The increasing volume of multibeam bathymetry data collected along continental margins is providing new opportunities to study the feedbacks between sedimentary and oceanographic processes and seafloor morphology. Attempts to develop simple guidelines that describe the relationships between form and process often overlook the importance of inherited physiography in slope depositional systems. Here, we use multibeam bathymetry data and seismic reflection profiles spanning the U.S. Atlantic outer continental shelf, slope and rise from Cape Hatteras to New England to quantify the broad-scale, across-margin morphological variation. Morphometric analyses suggest the margin can be divided into four basic categories that roughly align with Quaternary sedimentary provinces. Within each category, Quaternary sedimentary processes exerted heavy modification of submarine canyons, landslide complexes and the broad-scale morphology of the continental rise, but they appear to have preserved much of the pre-Quaternary, across-margin shape of the continental slope. Without detailed constraints on the substrate structure, first-order morphological categorization the U.S. Atlantic margin does not provide a reliable framework for predicting relationships between form and process.

publication date

  • April 2013