Area-based approach improves global sediment discharge modeling


  • Colin Schultz


By approaching the challenge of calculating global sediment discharge rates from a new angle, Pelletier developed a model that outperforms many existing simulations while minimizing the number of free parameters. Knowing how sediment is transported by the world's rivers is a key factor in understanding how landscapes change over time, with important consequences for agricultural viability, ecological health, and soil properties. Traditionally, the majority of discharge models calculate sediment redistribution at the watershed or drainage basin scale, using watershed average values of the physical properties known to affect sediment transport. The author's model, on the other hand, partitions the planet into sections that are 5 arc minutes wide—roughly 10 kilometers across at the equator and smaller at higher latitudes. This decision to use an area-based grid rather than drainage basin averages allows for an improved representation of small-scale processes that are often washed out at the watershed scale.