Variability of deltaic processes in terms of sediment supply, with particular emphasis on grain size



Short term variability in delta form and process can be partly explained by the relative strength of hydraulic parameters such as river discharge, discharge variability, wave energy flux and tidal range. However, the calibre or grain size is also important. The amount, mode of transport and grain size of the sediment load delivered to a delta front have a considerable effect on the facies, formative physical processes, related depositional environments and morphology of the deltaic depositional system. The available grain size influences (1) the gradient and channel pattern of the fluvial system on the delta plain; (2) the mixing behaviour of sediment as it discharges into the ambient basin waters at the river mouth; (3) the type of shoreline, whether reflective or dissipative, and its response to both wave energy and tidal regime; and (4) the deformation and resedimentation processes on the subaqueous delta front. Long term aspects of deltaic sedimentation, including a few generalized relationships between sediment supply and physiographic setting, are briefly introduced. The need for further detailed research on modern and ancient deltaic dispersal systems is emphasized, and specific suggestions are given for future research.