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Submarine Canyons, Meaning, Formation & Examples

Submarine Canyons

Submarine Canyons are a class of narrow steep-sided valleys that cut into continental slopes and continental rises of the oceans. Submarine canyons form on continental slopes or on the continental shelf. They are uncommon on continental margins with steep continental slopes or escarpments. Submarine Canyons are named after the canyons formed by rivers on land. Undersea canyons are found along the slopes of most continental margins, as opposed to deep-sea trenches, which are found where one tectonic plate slides beneath another.

They form due to erosion caused by sediments carried down by rivers that cut across continental shelves, slopes, and rises. The sediments are subsequently deposited on the abyssal plains.

Read about: Mid Oceanic Ridge

Submarine Canyons Characteristics

Submarine canyons are more common on the steep slopes of active margins than on the gentler slopes of passive margins. They demonstrate erosion across all substrates, from unlithified sediment to crystalline rock. Canyons on active continental margins are steeper, shorter, more dendritic, and more closely spaced than canyons on passive continental margins.

The walls are typically very steep and can reach near-vertical heights. The walls are vulnerable to bioerosion and slumping. There are approximately 9,477 submarine canyons on Earth, accounting for approximately 11% of the continental slope.

Read about: Major Ocean Relief Features

Submarine Canyons Diagram

Submarine Canyons

Submarine Canyons Types

These marine features are formed due to erosional, depositional and biological activity. They are usually found in the upper parts of the elevations since they are produced upon features of diastrophic origins. There are broadly three types of submarine canyons:

1. Bank

A bank is a flat-topped elevation, usually located in the continental margins. Erosional and depositional activities are the major factors for the formation of banks. There is a thin layer of water over the bank; however, the depth is sufficient for navigation. They are productive sites for fisheries. For example the Dogger Bank in the North Sea and the Grand Banks of the North-Western Atlantic.

2. Shoal

Shoal is an accumulation of sediment in a river channel or on a continental shelf that is potentially dangerous to ships. It is conventionally taken to be less than 10 m (33 feet) below water level at low tide on the continental shelf.

3. Reef

A Coral Reef is a ridge or hummock formed in shallow ocean areas by algae and calcareous skeletons, usually coral polyps. A coral reef has the potential to become a permanent coral island. Coral reefs, also known as “rainforests of the sea,” are home to a diverse range of organisms. Coral reefs are a characteristic feature of the Pacific Ocean, associated with seamounts and guyots.

Read about: Continental Drift Theory

Submarine Canyons UPSC

The motion of seawater is controlled by ocean relief. In turn, oceanic movement in the form of currents causes many variations in both the oceans and the atmosphere. Ocean bottom relief also has an impact on navigation and fishing.

Read about: Indian Ocean Dipole

Other Indian Geography Topics

Seasons of India Mountains of India
Mangrove Forests in India Important Mountain Passes in India
Monsoon in India
Indus River System
Climate of India
Rivers of India
Tributaries of Ganga
National Parks in India
Important Dams in India
Wildlife Sanctuaries of India
Tiger Reserves in India
Northern Plains of India
Physiography of India
Important Lakes of India
Wetlands in India
Biodiversity in India
Natural Vegetation in India Earthquakes in India
Types of Soil in India
Ramsar Sites in India
Brahmaputra River System
Hydropower Plants in India
Nuclear Power Plants in India
Major Ports in India
Biosphere Reserves in India
Waterfalls in India

Other Fundamental Geography Topics

Solar System Types of Clouds
Structure of the Atmosphere Himalayan Ranges
Component of Environment
El Nino and La Nina
Coral Reef
Continental Drift Theory
Endogenic and Exogenic Forces
Indian Ocean Region
Pacific Ocean
Indian Ocean Dipole
Air Pollution
Environmental Impact Assessment
Tropical Cyclone
Western Disturbances
Types of Rocks

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FAQs

What exactly is a submarine canyon, and how do they form?

Submarine canyon, any of a group of narrow, steep-sided valleys that cut into oceanic continental slopes and rises. Submarine canyons form on the slopes of continents or on the continental shelf. They are uncommon on continental margins with steep continental slopes or escarpments.

What do submarine canyons do?

Submarine canyons, which are steep-sided valleys carved into the continental shelf and slope, are important conduits for sediment transport from land and the shelf to the deep sea.

What are two ways submarine canyons form?

Submarine canyons are thought to form as a result of at least two major processes: 1) turbidity current erosion and 2) slumping and mass wasting of the continental slope.

Are submarine canyons passive or active?

Submarine canyons are more common on the steep slopes of active margins than on the gentler slopes of passive margins.

Where are submarine canyons found?

It is no coincidence that submarine canyons are mostly found along continental margins. Steep shelf edge slopes are prone to failure, and the resulting submarine landslides leave gullies and scarps.

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