Finite amplitude bars in mixed bedrock-alluvial channels

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Abstract

We present a nonlinear asymptotic theory of fully developed flow and bed topography in a wide channel of constant curvature to describe finite amplitude perturbations of bottom topography, subject to an inerodible bedrock layer. The flow field is evaluated at the leading order of approximation as a slowly varying sequence of locally uniform flows, slightly perturbed by a weak curvature-induced secondary flow. Using the constraint of constant fluid discharge and sediment flux, we calculate an analytical solution for the cross-sectional profile of flow depth and bed topography, and we determine the average slope in the bend necessary to transport the sediment supplied from a straight, alluvial, upstream reach. Both fully alluvial bends and bends with partial bedrock exposure are shown to require a larger average slope than a straight upstream reach; the relative slope increase is much larger for mixed bedrock-alluvial bends. Curvature and sediment supply are shown to have a strong effect on the characteristics of the point bars in mixed bedrock-alluvial channels. Higher curvature bends produce bars of larger amplitude and more bedrock exposure through the cross section, and increasing the sediment supply leads to taller and wider point bars. Differences in the relative roughness of sediment and bedrock have a smaller, secondary effect on point bar characteristics. Our analytical approach can potentially be extended to the case of arbitrary, yet slowly varying, curvature, and should ultimately lead to an improved understanding of the formation of meanders in bedrock channels.

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