Oceanography Lecture Outline Notes
Introduction – Earth's Hidden Surface - The Seafloor
Seafloor Topography - Undersea Bottom Relief
Seafloor Physiology - Major Features of the Sea bottom
Deep-Sea Floors - Basaltic Crust Conveyor Systems
Marine Sedimentation - Mucky Clays and Oozes
Islands, Reefs and Atolls - Interesting Places
and Death of an
Sea Bottom Resources - Natural Treasure
The Earth is Truly a Water Planet - "
1. Seafloors cover nearly 3/4's of Earth's surface.
2. The seafloor is the final receptacle for vast amounts of terriginous and
3. Ocean basins form wide barriers between the continents
B. The Ocean Realm is Earth's Last Frontier - Why?
1. Remote and inhospitable - It’s a harsh "inner" space.
· Conditions at sea can be very uncomfortable
· Water pressure is tremendous at great depths
· Deep sea world is very wet, cold, and in complete darkness
C. Earth's Seafloors are Vast, Rugged & Resource-rich
1. A highly variable topography, which includes, rugged mountain ranges, very
deep trenches, amazing island chains, ocean plateaus, seamounts, and
deep canyons that rival anything seen on land.
III. Seafloor Topography - Underwater Bottom Relief
A. Earth has Two Distinctive Topographic Regions
· Continental Highlands - Continents
B. The Earth's Seafloors are Rugged in Appearance and
Have Considerable Topographic Relief.
· See Figures
· Much more topographic relief than the continents
· Seafloors have distinctive topographic features
· Seafloors look much different than dry continents
C. Earth's Seafloor is Divided into Two Major Provinces
1. Continental Margins
· Submerged shallow platforms
· Floored mostly by granitic rock
· Varies greatly width, depth, and topo relief
· Vast majority of marine life concentrated there
2. Deep-Ocean Basins
· Starts at base of continental margins
· Deep seafloor consists primarily of:
1. High-standing mid-ocean ridge systems and
2. Low-standing sediment-covered abyssal plains
3. The two-province division is based upon the major inherent differences
between continental and oceanic crust.
· Composition (density)
· Isostatic equilibrium
IV. Continental Margins
A. Shallow Seafloor Rims of Ocean Basins
1. Continental margins - the submerged edges of continents
2. Continental margins are underlain by faulted blocks of granitic crust ,
overlying sediment piles, and possible accreted subduction zone material
B. Continental Margins are Classified into Two Types
§ Situated within a plate
§ Develops after continental rifting and opening of a new ocean basin opening
§ Typically broad (avg. 100's km) with a very thick pile of
§ Lacks much seismic or volcanic activity
· Situated at the leading edge of a continental plate
· Develops after initiation of subduction
· Typically narrow with rugged topography
· Outer edge typically forms inner wall of ocean trench
· Regionally unstable with much seismicity & volcanism
C. Physiological Features of a Continental Margin
· Continental Shelf
· Continental Slope
· Submarine Canyons
· Continental Rise
D. The Continental Shelf
· Shallow, submerged edge of continent between the shoreline and
continental slope (shelf-slope break)
· Has a very low sloping angle (<< 1degree)
· Typically shallow water depths (avg. = 75 m = 250 ft)
· Greatly influenced by fluctuations in sea level
· Shelf sediments are mainly influenced by waves and tidal currents
· Site of abundant mineral resources and sea life
E. Continental Slope and Rise (See Figs )
· Deeper, steeper, outermost edge of continent between the continental shelf and the deep ocean floor
· A continental rise may separate the continental slopefrom the deep ocean basin along passive margins
ü A continental rise forms a thick pile of sediments that have accumulated at the base of the continental slope
· The shelf-slope break marks the abrupt transition between the slope and the shelf
· Location of Earth's greatest depository of sediments
ü Roughly 70% of Earth's sediments
· Slope and Rise sediments are mainly influenced by gravity, and are transported down-slope via strong turbidity currents and deposit as submarine fans.
· Submarine canyons and fan deposits are present on all continental slopes and rises, and on some continental shelves
· Submarine fan deposits grade into deep-ocean deposits
V. Deep-Ocean Basins - True Oceanic Seafloor
A. Ocean Basins are Classified by Size and Extent
· Oceans - broad, large, and globally extensive
· Seas - narrow, smaller, and regionally limited
B. Deep-ocean basins are underlain by basaltic crust
1. Ocean Crust - A typical cross section (See Figs .)
· Layered basaltic crust covered by sediments
· Rugged volcanic surface covered by layers upon layers of very fine pelagic sediment
ü Pelagic clays
ü Silica and carbonates Oozes
· Oceanic igneous crustal column is also layered
Ø Pillow lava basalt
Ø Sheeted gabbroic dikes
Ø Massive gabbro (intrusions)
Ø Layered gabbro (intrusions)
Ø Layered Peridotite
· Oceanic crustal sections found on land are termed an ophiolite suite
C. Ocean Basins are Relatively Young Earth Features
· Oldest part of ocean basins is 180 million years old
· Average age of deep ocean seafloor is 60 million y.o.
· Age distribution pattern of deep-ocean crust is striking
· Study Text Figure - Ocean crust age map
D. Deep-ocean basins are rugged with variable relief, andhave a wide variety of
distinctive physiological features
Ø See Figure 4.30 - Seafloor Topographic Map
1. Mid-ocean ridges
2. Mid-ocean ridge fractures
3. Hydrothermal vents
4. Abyssal plains and Abyssal hills
5. Seamounts and Guyouts
6. Oceanic island chains
7. Oceanic plateaus
8. Trenches and
E. Most Deep Ocean Features are the Result of Seafloor Spreading Processes
Occurring at Mid Ocean Ridges
1. Seafloor spreading processes create:
ü Mid-ocean rift valleys and ridge flanks
ü Vast expanses of ocean crust (abyssal plains)
ü Chains of volcanoes (seamounts and islands)
ü Transform fracture systems
ü Hydrothermal systems (black smokers)
VI. Marine Sedimentation - Pelagic Clays and Oozes
A. Sediments - Defined
· No mechanisms to transport coarse-grained material
ü Exception is icebergs
· Vast majority of deep seafloor sediment is deposited via vertical settling of suspended material
· Sediment deposited from suspension is termed pelagic
C. Sediments Sources
1. Sediments have four major sources:
2. Classification Chart of Marine Sediments – See Table 5.2
D. Lithogenous Sediments
1. Lithogenous Sediments come from Rocks.
· Lithogenous sediments are produced by weathering processes, which break up rocks into smaller fragments and, sometimes, change their chemical composition.
· Clays and quartz are major end products of weathering.
· Most lithogenous sediments are found near land, since nearly all lithogenous sediment comes from the continents.
2. River Sediment via Turbidity Currents
3. Windblown dust and volcanic ash
· Continentally derived
· Deep-sea clays are termed pelagic clay
4. Accumulation Rates of Lithogenous Sediments
· In river deltas, sediments can accumulate at >800 cm/year. Tidewater glacial fjords also have extremely high sedimentation rates.
· In estuaries and bays, such sediments accumulate at about 0.5 cm/year. These often "trap" the sediment carried by rivers and streams.
· On the continental shelf and slope, sediments accumulate at about 10-40 cm/1000 years. Some shelves presently accumulate no sediment at all.
· Large areas of the deep sea, deeper than about 4500 m, are also covered with lithogenous sediment, called red or brown clay. Most of this sediment reaches the mid-ocean regions where it is found via wind transport.
· The deep ocean has extremely low sedimentation rates, <1 cm/1000 years.
5. Lithogenous Sediment is Sorted by Size
· Lithogenous sediments tend to be made up of progressively smaller particles with increasing distance from shore. This is because the larger particles sink more quickly, and so can't be transported as far by ocean currents.
· An exception to this pattern is rocks and gravel rafted by glaciers.
E. Biogenous Sediments
1. Defined: Sediments consisting of at least 30% of the remains of marine plankton (small marine plants and animals) are termed biogenous oozes.
2. Two Categories of microscopic marine organism skeletons
· Carbonate hard parts = calcareous ooze
· Silica hard parts = siliceous ooze
3. Calcareous oozes are made up of the remains of tiny shells or tests consisting of calcium carbonate.
· Coccolith oozes consist of plates from coccolithophorids (tiny, single-celled plants).
· Foraminiferal oozes consist of shells of ameba-like animals (foraminifera).
Both coccolith and foram oozes are found
mostly along the upper part of ridges and rises, and are more common in the
· Also, carbon dioxide dissolves calcium carbonate. There is more carbon dioxide in deep Pacific water because it is older than deep Atlantic water.
· The depth at which calcium carbonate becomes totally dissolved is termed the CCCD
· Pteropod oozes consist of shells of tiny, snail-like animals. Because they dissolve more easily than forams or coccoliths, they are found only in relatively shallow water.
4. Siliceous oozes are composed of plankton shells made of silica (opal).
· Radiolarian oozes are made up of the remains of radiolarians, which are also ameba-like animals. Radiolarian oozes are found under the equatorial Pacific.
Diatomaceous oozes are made up of the
remains of diatoms, single-celled plants. Diatomaceous oozes are found in
highly productive regions, upwelling areas. The ocean surrounding
· Siliceous oozes are only found where the amount of silica reaching the sediments is high. Elsewhere, silica dissolves.
5. Accumulation Rates of Biogenous Oozes
· Accumulate faster than most lithogenous deep-sea sediments, at rates of about 1 cm/1000 years.
· Diatomaceous oozes on continental shelves accumulate at up to 1 cm/year.
F. Hydrogenous Sediments
1. Form by precipitation from seawater or pore water (the water between the mineral grains of sediments).
· Manganese nodules consist of iron and manganese oxides, and can be rich in some other metals like cobalt, nickel, and copper.
· Phosphorites, found in sediments of upwelling areas, and carbonates, found beneath very warm, saline waters, are two other types of hydrogenous sediment.
2. Accumulation Rates of Hydrogenous Sediments
· Accumulation rates are extremely slow. Manganese nodules grow very slowly, as little as 1 mm/million years.
G. Distribution of Deep-Sea Sediments - A Global Pattern
1. Pelagic clays carpet the deepest parts of the oceans
ü Cover about 38% of world's deep-sea bottoms
ü Deposition rate is roughly 2 mm/1000 years
2. Pelagic calcareous oozes cover a good portion of the Atlantic, Indian and
ü Cover about 48% of world's deep-sea bottoms
ü Accumulation rate is 1 to 6 cm per 1000 years
Pelagic siliceous oozes cover equatorial Pacific and
latitude ocean seafloors
ü Cover about 14% of world's deep-sea bottoms
ü Accumulation rate is 1 to 6 cm per 1000 years
Hydrogenous sediments like manganese nodules are found mainly in the
5. Study - Global ocean floor sediment distribution map
VII. Origin of
1. Formed on or near mid-ocean ridges
2. Basaltic shield volcanoes
3. Migrate away from mid-ocean ridges over time
Atolls and Guyouts are
1. Circular coral reef systems develop around islands.
2. Oceanic crust cools and subsides with increasing age, causing the attached
islands to also subside over time.
4. Upwards reef growth keep ups with sinking island.
able to maintain at sea level.
ü This stage of an island is termed an atoll.
6. Eventually reef growth lags behind rate of atoll subsidence, and entire atoll
structure becomes permanently submerged - this is termed a guyout.
VIII. Birth, Growth and Death of an
A. Initiation of New
1. Initial stages of plate divergence
2. Rift valley floored by new basaltic (oceanic) crust.
3. Further widening of rift, marine waters begin filling valley
1. Continued plate divergence now in full swing
2.True seafloor spreading in operation = Mini ocean basin
3. Matching set of opposing coastlines frame the sea
C. Full Maturation of
1. Divergence begins to stall - spreading rate slows
2. Continental margins, abyssal seafloors, and mid-ocean ridge
3. Fully-developed ocean has emerged with an age 200-400 Ma
D. Mature Ocean Basin Starts to Collapse near Its Margins
1. Old, dense ocean lithosphere becomes isostatically unstable
2. Subduction initiated; ocean basin lithosphere dives into upper mantle forming
ocean trenches and island arcs.
3. Beginning of plate convergence of sides of ocean basin
1. Plate convergence in full swing
2. Subduction zones established along continental margins
3. Extensive volcanic and uplifted mountain chains result from continued subduction
and intense collision forces
F. Total Collapse of
1. Plate convergence reaches an apex - subduction wanes
2. Last of oceanic lithosphere subducted - Ocean basin gone
3. Massive thrusted and uplifted mountain ranges form a complex continental suture
zone marking the site of the now totally collapsed ocean basin
A. Continental Margins
1. Oil and Gas
2. Sand and Gravel
3. Plankton, Fish and Shellfish
B. Deep-Sea Bottom
1. Manganese nodules
2. Massive sulphide deposits
3. Migratory fish
X. Seafloor Vocabulary -
Active continental margin
Passive continental margin
Ridge fracture zones
Submarine hydrothermal vent