Feeds

Researchers find massive mud flow off African coast

Sediment slunk 1,500km

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

It happened 60,000 years ago, so we'll concede that we're a bit late with the news, but scientists have uncovered evidence of the largest ever flow of sand and mud, off the coast of north-west Africa.

Researchers report in Nature that over the course of mere hours, or days, some 225 billion metric tonnes of sediment was dumped into the ocean after a landslide 60,000 years ago. The flow of debris travelled 1,500km before grinding and squelching to a halt.

The team says that the landslide responsible for the flow was probably not the largest ever known, however: landslides off the coast of Hawaii are known to have been bigger, and the Storegga slip off the coast of Norway also has it beat.

But in terms of sheer scale, the 1,500km long, 150km wide trail of sediment is in a class of its own. Researchers estimate that the flow dropped into the sea is ten times the amount of sediment carried by every river in the world each year.

"If you look at the distance it travelled and how much material it moved, it was at least as big as many volcanic eruptions," co-author Peter Talling from the University of Bristol, UK, told the BBC.

The researchers say that the blocks from the landslide would have broken up and become suspended in the water, flowing down the edge of the land mass, through an undersea canyon, and out to sea. Only a lessening of the gradient of the sea floor finally put the brakes on the huge volume of mud.

Dr. Talling said it would have been similar to an avalanche, where snow barrels down mountains in massive, deadly clouds. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.