Do river channels decrease in width downstream on Distributive Fluvial Systems? An evaluation of modern mega-fans

Friday, 19 December 2014
Tatiana N Espinoza1, Louis A Scuderi2, Gary S Weissmann2 and Adrian J Hartley3, (1)University of New Mexico Main Campus, Albuquerque, NM, United States, (2)University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, United States, (3)University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Recent studies on aggradational continental sedimentary basins globally show that fluvial deposits in most modern sedimentary basins are dominated Distributive Fluvial Systems (DFS). DFS’s are identified by: (1) pattern of channels and floodplain deposits that radiate outward from an apex located where the river enters the sedimentary basin, (2) deposition where an alluvial system becomes unconfined upon entering the sedimentary basin, (3) broadly fan shaped deposit that is convex upward across the DFS and concave upward down-fan, and (4) if the DFS is incised, an intersection point above which the alluvial system is held in an incised valley and below which it distributes sediment across an active depositional lobe. Several papers about DFS hypothesized that rivers on DFS decrease in size down-fan. We are testing this hypothesis through evaluation of LANDSAT and STRM data from large DFS described by Hartley et al (2010). We use ArcGIS to: (1) open the images and merge them together if there are more than one image corresponding to the DFS being studied, (2) use a Maximum Likelihood Analysis in six classes to segment different features on the DFS (e.g. exposed sands, water, vegetation, and other fan environments), (3) isolate the classes that correspond to the active channel belt (e.g., exposed sand bars and water), (4) divide the active channel belt into 1000 m long sections, (5) determine the area of active channel belt in each section, and (6) calculate the average width of the river in each section (e.g., W = area/1000m). We present our result for each DFS river on a graph that shows the change in width downstream. Our final product will be a dataset that contains width versus distance down-fan from the apex for as many of the large DFS from Hartley et al (2010) as possible. If the hypothesis is supported, the decrease in width could have a substantial predictive significance on sandstone geometry in fluvial successions.