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Title: Congruent Bifurcation Angles in River Delta and Tributary Channel Networks

Abstract

We show that distributary channels on river deltas exhibit a mean bifurcation angle that can be understood using theory developed in tributary channel networks. In certain cases, tributary network bifurcation geometries have been demonstrated to be controlled by diffusive groundwater flow feeding incipient bifurcations, producing a characteristic angle of 72°. We measured 25 unique distributary bifurcations in an experimental delta and 197 bifurcations in 10 natural deltas, yielding a mean angle of 70.4°±2.6° (95% confidence interval) for field-scale deltas and a mean angle of 68.3°±8.7° for the experimental delta, consistent with this theoretical prediction. The bifurcation angle holds for small scales relative to channel width length scales. Furthermore, the experimental data show that the mean angle is 72° immediately after bifurcation initiation and remains relatively constant over significant time scales. Although distributary networks do not mirror tributary networks perfectly, the similar control and expression of bifurcation angles suggests that additional morphodynamic insight may be gained from further comparative study.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22). Chemical Sciences, Geosciences & Biosciences Division; USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1537299
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1410353
Grant/Contract Number:  
[SC0016163; DESC0016163]
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Geophysical Research Letters
Additional Journal Information:
[ Journal Volume: 44; Journal Issue: 22]; Journal ID: ISSN 0094-8276
Publisher:
American Geophysical Union
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 58 GEOSCIENCES; Channel network; bifurcation; angle

Citation Formats

Coffey, Thomas S., and Shaw, John B. Congruent Bifurcation Angles in River Delta and Tributary Channel Networks. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1002/2017gl074873.
Coffey, Thomas S., & Shaw, John B. Congruent Bifurcation Angles in River Delta and Tributary Channel Networks. United States. doi:10.1002/2017gl074873.
Coffey, Thomas S., and Shaw, John B. Thu . "Congruent Bifurcation Angles in River Delta and Tributary Channel Networks". United States. doi:10.1002/2017gl074873. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1537299.
@article{osti_1537299,
title = {Congruent Bifurcation Angles in River Delta and Tributary Channel Networks},
author = {Coffey, Thomas S. and Shaw, John B.},
abstractNote = {We show that distributary channels on river deltas exhibit a mean bifurcation angle that can be understood using theory developed in tributary channel networks. In certain cases, tributary network bifurcation geometries have been demonstrated to be controlled by diffusive groundwater flow feeding incipient bifurcations, producing a characteristic angle of 72°. We measured 25 unique distributary bifurcations in an experimental delta and 197 bifurcations in 10 natural deltas, yielding a mean angle of 70.4°±2.6° (95% confidence interval) for field-scale deltas and a mean angle of 68.3°±8.7° for the experimental delta, consistent with this theoretical prediction. The bifurcation angle holds for small scales relative to channel width length scales. Furthermore, the experimental data show that the mean angle is 72° immediately after bifurcation initiation and remains relatively constant over significant time scales. Although distributary networks do not mirror tributary networks perfectly, the similar control and expression of bifurcation angles suggests that additional morphodynamic insight may be gained from further comparative study.},
doi = {10.1002/2017gl074873},
journal = {Geophysical Research Letters},
number = [22],
volume = [44],
place = {United States},
year = {2017},
month = {11}
}

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