Sediment diffusion during overbank flows



Distinctive overbank sediments deposited since European settlement on the floodplain of the Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania, are used to calibrate and test a diffusion model of overbank deposition. The predictions of the model can be calibrated to reproduce the topography of the post-settlement lithosome with an average error of 7%. The model also correctly predicts the decrease in mean grain size away from the channel. The model greatly underestimates the ability of floodwaters to transport sand away from the channel. Apparently, sand is transported across the floodplain by bedload transport and by advective suspended sediment transport as well as by diffusion.

If flow duration data for 1912–1981 and the present rating curve for the Brandywine Creek at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, are assumed to apply throughout the post-settlement period, the model may be used to estimate palaeohydraulic characteristics of post-settlement floods. Calculations indicate that 212 post-settlement floods covered the floodplain to an average depth of 1.6 m, transported an average excess suspended sediment concentration of 6200 ppm, and deposited an average thickness of 1.4 cm of sediment on levees next to the channel.