Elisabeth Steel

PhD July 2017.

Office Location

Webb 1049


Hyperpycnal currents with reversing buoyancy

Research Areas
Sedimentology, Quantitative Stratigraphy

Alex Simms



Graduate Opportunity Award, 2012/13

Coast Geological Society Award, 2013/14

Preston Cloud Award, 2013/14


My research is currently focused on the study of hyperpycnal flow deposits in the Northern Santa Barbara Channel. Hyperpycnal flow occurs when the density of fluvial output exceeds the density of the body of water it drains into, resulting in a flow that hugs the sea-floor and bypasses the littoral cell. Multiple fans can be seen directly offshore from several small creeks draining into the Santa Barbara Channel from the Santa Ynez Mountains. During large flooding events, these creeks can carry enormous amounts of suspended sediment and bedload material, which leads to formation of a hyperpycnal plume. These fans are the first example of hyperpycnal deposition in an active margin basin and a study of their composition, morphology, and depositional processes will lead to a greater understanding of coastal sediment transport mechanisms.


  • Warrick, J., Simms, A., Ritchie, A., Steel, E., Dartnell, P., Conrad, J., and Finlayson, D., 2013, Hyperpycnal plume-derived fans in the Santa Barbara Channel, California: Geophysical Research Letters, in press.  doi: 10.1002/grl.50488.
  • Kim, W., Connell, S.D., Steel, E., Smith, G.A., Paola, C., 2011, Mass balance control on the interaction of axial and transverse channel systems: Geology, V. 39, p. 611-614., doi: 10.1130/G31896.1.


EARTH 2: Physical Geology (Teaching Assistant), F12/W13

EARTH 122:  Sedimentation and Stratigraphy (Teaching Assistant), S13/S14