The scars left by submarine slope failures are easily identified in seismic reflection profiles, long-ranged side scan sonar images, and/or multi-beam bathymetry data. Such scars are very common continental margin geomorphic features (Hampton et al., 1996). Many of the mapped submarine slides are significantly larger than the biggest terrestrial landslides (Schwab et al., 1993).
While the existing data document the spatial distribution and scale of the continental margin sediment failures, remote sensing data do not directly reveal the cause of the failure. Moreover, there are a number of challenges that make investigating the causes of submarine slides difficult. Probably most of the known slide scars are not very fresh and important environmental conditions may have changed since the slope failed. The specific conditions responsible for generating the local weaknesses are erased by the failure event. It is also difficult to know whether the surviving sediments on the flanks of the slide are comparable to the section that failed. Marine sediment scars are difficult to investigate in detail because access to the deep-sea is usually limited and always expensive. However, the general patterns of slide scar distribution do provide a geographic context from which we can begin to evaluate the potential role of gas hydrate on slide formation.
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