Sedimentological characteristics of a late Miovene Contourite Channel System (The Rifian Corridor, Morocco)

Wouter De Weger

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Bottom currents are widely and increasingly more often recognized in deep-marine environments. However, the processes driving and controlling these bottom currents remain poorly understood. This partially results from their occurrence in near inaccessible deep-marine environments. Consequently, our knowledge of bottom currents significantly depends on studying their deposits.
Idealized facies of bottom current deposits (contourites) have been established for fine-grained contourite drifts in modern deep-marine sedimentary environments however, their sand-rich counter parts, related to stronger bottom-currents, have remained more elusive. Equivalent contourite facies in the ancient record have only been scarcely recognized, hindering the development of models that can be applied to industry geosciences and the reconstruction of past ocean circulation.
This Thesis presents a multidisciplinary field-focussed study on contourite deposits from the late Miocene Rifian Corridor in Morocco. A detailed geological analysis was carried out in the study area to characterise the paleogeographic setting and to analyse the potential of outcrops having a contouritic origin. Four sections were selected for detailed sedimentological analysis, including the characterisation of morphological, sedimentological, petrological, and ichnological elements. The results of these characterisations allowed us to reconstruct the newly identified contourite channel system associated to the late Miocene Mediterranean Outflow Water (paleo-MOW). Detailed facies analysis enables the characterisation of different contourite elements and the proposal of a novel contourite facies model.
The new findings of this research project furthermore include the characterisation of control factors on the behaviour of overflow, and thus the controls on bottom-current formation and their evolution. These control factors range from tectonically induced re-configuration of overflow controlling geological features, multi-scale orbitally controlled climate change and its effects on overflow behaviour as well as a strong modulation by tides. Unravelling these control factors from the sedimentary record, enabled the evaluation of the evolution of contourite depositional systems. This in-turn allows for the predictability of bottom-current induced sedimentary systems and strategies for both energy geosciences and hydrocarbon exploration.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hernández-Molina, Francisco J., Supervisor
  • Chiarella, Domenico, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021

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