Coastal currents and mass transport of surface sediments over the shelf regions of Monterey Bay, California

Marine Geology



In Monterey Bay, the highest concentrations of medium and fine sands occur nearshore between ten and thirty fathoms. Silt and clay accumulate in greater depths. Contours of median diameter roughly parallel the isobaths.

Fine-grained materials are supplied to the bay region from erosion of cliffs which partly surround Monterey Bay, from sediment laden river discharge, and from continual reworking of widespread Pleistocene and Recent sea floor sediments. These sediments in turn are picked up by coastal currents and distributed over the shelf regions by present day current regimes.

Studies of bottom currents over the shelf regions and in Monterey Canyon have revealed patterns which vary with seasonal changes. Current patterns during August and September exhibit remarkable symmetry about the axis of Monterey Submarine Canyon. Central Shelf currents north and south of Monterey Canyon flowed northwest at an average rate of 0.2 knots and south at 0.3 knots respectively. On the North Shelf between January and March currents flowed east to southeast at 0.3–0.5 knots with mirror image patterns above the South Shelf during the same period.

Irregular current flow in the canyon indicates a complex current structure with frequent shifts in counterclockwise and clockwise direction over very short periods of time. Bottom topography of the canyon complex often causes localization of canyon currents. One particular observation at a depth of 51 fathoms indicated up-canyon flow at a rate of 0.2 knots. Most of the observed currents are related to seasonal variations, upwelling, ocean swell patterns, and to changes in the California and Davidson currents.

Changes in current regimes are reflected in the patterns of sediment distribution and transport. Sediment transport is chiefly parallel to the isobaths, particularly on the North and South Shelf regions. Complex dispersal patterns are observed near Monterey Canyon and Moss Landing Harbor jetties. Longshore currents move sediments southward except near Monterey Canyon which acts as a physiographic barrier and the extreme southern end of the bay where currents are non persistent.

Some sediments are also transported offshore by rip currents and other agencies and deposited in deeper, quieter waters. Supply of sediments to the canyon head results in over-filling and steepening with subsequent mass movement of sediments seaward followed by deposition in channels and on the broad deep sea fan.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Coastal currents and mass transport of surface sediments over the shelf regions of Monterey Bay, California
Series title Marine Geology
DOI 10.1016/0025-3227(70)90029-0
Volume 8
Issue 5
Year Published 1970
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Description 16 p.
First page 321
Last page 336
Country United States
State Califfornia
Other Geospatial Monterey Bay
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