GRACE Geo-hazaRds Along the CEuta Canyon

Scientific Discipline: Geology, Geophysics, Physical Oceanography, Sedimentology

Research Area: Ceuta Canyon, Alboran Sea, SW Mediterranean Sea

Research Vessel/Equipment:RV Belgica II (RBINS-OD Nature), AUV Barabas (VLIZ)

PI Name and Affiliation: Carmen Juan Valenzuela. 1ST AFFILIATION - Instituto Español de Oceanografía, CO Cádiz (Spain); 2ND AFFILIATION – Lille University, Laboratoire d'Océanologie et de Géosciences (France)

Dates: 2022 (Dates TBC)

AUV Barabas
PI – Carmen Juan Valenzuela

Citation from PI: This project is a milestone in my career. It is the first time that I am PI and I would like to obtain the best results possible. I embrace this challenge with enthusiasm!

ABSTRACT - The Alboran Sea (SW Mediterranean) lies at an active tectonic setting, and the seabed is constantly affected by chronic and catastrophic geological hazards. This proposal focuses on the Ceuta Canyon, a large-scale downslope feature overlooked as a mere boundary geological feature of the adjacent and much larger Ceuta Drift. However, a) its location is tectonically controlled and seems to be related to onshore active structures; b) its head (located close to the coast) and the eastern margin are affected by arcuate-shaped scars; and c) it is deeply influenced by vigorous bottom currents that cause erosion on its margins and the rapid growth of the Ceuta Drift. This context in which tectonism, bottom currents and sedimentary instabilities show a complex interplay raises concerns regarding the high exposure of coastal populations to geohazards. In addition, new projects to place electrical and telecommunications connections in between Spain and Morocco are endangered.

This proposal aims to study the geological risks in the Ceuta Canyon and its annex areas with a multidisciplinary lens, focusing on the sedimentary processes, chrono-stratigraphy, and oceanography. To properly tackle this task, ultra-high resolution imaging of the seafloor must be carried out. For that, the incorporation of an AUV will allow geohazard mapping with unprecedented precision, providing higher resolution datasets than those achieved from surface vessels with traditional techniques.

MAIN OBJECTIVES - The working hypothesis is that the Ceuta canyon and surrounding domains represent a potential threat for proximal to coastal areas due to the striking occurrence of landslides, vigorous bottom currents, land-sea tectonic-related seismicity, and fluid dynamics. To test this hypothesis, this proposal pursues two main objectives: a) to better understand the Ceuta Canyon, including its origins, influence of tectonic features, and chronostratigraphy of the deposits, and b) the study of potential hazardous geological and oceanographic processes occurring in the Ceuta Canyon and adjacent areas.

Campaign Geographical Area