High-Magnitude Floods and Stream Channel Response

  1. J. D. Collinson and
  2. J. Lewin
  1. Avijit Gupta

Published Online: 29 APR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444303773.ch17

Modern and Ancient Fluvial Systems

Modern and Ancient Fluvial Systems

How to Cite

Gupta, A. (1983) High-Magnitude Floods and Stream Channel Response, in Modern and Ancient Fluvial Systems (eds J. D. Collinson and J. Lewin), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444303773.ch17

Author Information

  1. Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, Singapore 0511, Singapore

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 29 APR 2009
  2. Published Print: 7 FEB 1983

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780632009978

Online ISBN: 9781444303773



  • high-magnitude floods and stream channel response;
  • transitory flood effects on stream channels;
  • large floods on channel form;
  • stable stream channel response to channel floods;
  • river channel and valley formation


This paper discusses two premises: (a) large floods may play a bigger role than normally recognized in determining channel morphology, and (b) such effects tend to follow a geographical distribution of drainage basins. Post-flood observations of stream channels are common but inductive conclusions are not. Field observations from Jamaica, Maryland, U.S.A. and South-east Asia, and a review of case-studies indicate that high-magnitude floods leave a stable imprint on channel form, if certain conditions are fulfilled. Such conditions involve the presence of a considerable supply of coarse detritus, length of the recurrence interval of large floods, the ratio of peak flood discharge to bankfull flow, etc. Stability of flood-affected forms does not only depend on the erosive, or transporting or depositional ability of the flood discharge, but also on the inability of smaller flows to modify such forms in the inter-flood period. Attempts are made to construct and locate environments where the effect of large floods will be too pronounced to explain the channel entirely in terms of the most commonly used parameter: the bankfull discharge. Under such circumstances channel forms may be visualized as lag effects of a high-magnitude flood being slowly altered in most cases by flows of smaller magnitude. Erosional and depositional effects of such channels may also be preserved in the floodplain alluvium or in terrace deposits, thereby acting as a palaeohydrological indicator.