Water Resources Research

Detailed river stage mapping and head gradient analysis during meander cutoff in a laboratory river

Authors

  • Bangshuai Han,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Environmental Resources Engineering, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, Syracuse, New York, USA
    2. Now at Department of Geosciences, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA
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  • Theodore A. Endreny

    1. Department of Environmental Resources Engineering, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, Syracuse, New York, USA
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Abstract

Analytical models of river evolution predict meander narrowing and elongation which creates sinuosity-driven hyporheic exchange across the meander neck, by decreasing flow distance and increasing head loss. We used a laboratory river table and close range photogrammetry to map and analyze sinuosity as a driver of head gradients and hyporheic exchange during cutoff. The river valley had relatively high slopes (1.8%) and moderately cohesive sediment (10% talc, 90% sand) to facilitate cutoff, and ratios of horizontal to vertical scaling were distorted to achieve dynamic similitude (Re = 3200). Incipient to cutoff, the head gradient across the neck increased due to a narrowing neck, upstream aggradation, and downstream degradation. Longitudinal and transverse river surface slopes around the meander bend increased as the meander approached cutoff. The steep head gradient across the moderately cohesive meander neck generated seepage erosion and scour that formed a low-sinuosity avulsion. Sediment-rich flow in the avulsed channel aggraded the downstream bed and separated the active channel and oxbow lake. The limitation in geometric and dynamic similitude in the river table limits extrapolation to natural rivers, yet river evolution may involve aggradation and degradation induced channel head loss and turnover hyporheic exchange as well as seepage-induced meander neck erosion. Our submillimeter maps of meander morphology and water stage provide data to parameterize river evolution and hyporheic exchange models, and may inform analysis and mapping of field sites.

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