Geomorphological imprint of opposing ocean bottom currents, a case study from the southeastern Brazilian Atlantic margin

M. M. de Mahiques, F. J. Lobo, U. Schattner, A. López-Quirós, C. B. Rocha, R. J.S. Dias, I. Montoya-Montes, A. C.B. Vieira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The combination of oceanographic processes and a negligible fluvial terrestrial sediment contribution makes the Santos Basin margin (southwestern Brazil) a unique environment for studying thew morphological imprint of bottom currents on the seafloor morphology. We divide the seafloor into four domains: outer shelf, upper, middle, and lower slope, based on an analysis of sub-bottom Chirp profiles, multichannel seismic data, hydrographic data, numerical simulation outputs, and a seismic-derived bathymetry map. A clinoform at the outer shelf and upper slope, topped by erosional morphologies, developed below the SW-flowing Brazil Current (BC). At the bottom of the upper slope, a rugged and mounded surface around 600 mbsl coincides with the current flow reversal to the underlying NE-flowing Intermediate Western Boundary Current (IWBC). The smooth middle slope exhibits sheeted contourites interrupted by occasional channel-and-mound complexes. From the middle slope base, salt tectonics becomes a major player in setting the seafloor morphology. The slope-parallel Santos Channel develops above a subsurface diapir and the Cabo Frio Fault. The latter divides between the landward gap in subsurface Albian salt and the basinward rich diapir realm. Hence, the lower slope is reworked by the SW-flowing Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC); however, salt tectonics dictates its morphology. Our study consists of a unique example for studying the morpho-sedimentary imprint of a counter-current flowing on the continental slope and also for exploring the interaction between bottom flows with a suite of endogenic processes, such as salt tectonics, fluid flows, and mass movements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106715
JournalMarine Geology
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Contourites
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Margin geomorphology
  • Santos Basin
  • Sub-bottom profiles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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