GIS Analysis of Size Relationships between Drainage Basins and Alluvial Fans

Friday, 19 December 2014
Sarah N Wright1, 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
Imagery from the global database of modern sedimentary basins compiled by Weissman et al. (2010) allows us to test whether a size relationship between drainage basin area and distributive fluvial system (DFS) area exists. We are testing this hypothesis using a combination of SRTM-based digital elevation models and Landsat satellite imagery in ArcGIS. Sedimentary basins are delineated by preforming a Gaussian smoothing on the DEM, followed by optimal edge detection through application of a modified Canny edge detector. The pour points defining the link between contributing hydrologic basins and these sedimentary basins are then located by generating a stream network in ArcGIS and intersecting the stream network arcs with the sedimentary basin polygons. From these pour points we delineate the adjacent contributing drainage basin using the watershed tool in ArcGIS. We manually digitize the boundary and geometry of the DFS identified for each drainage basin, using the higher resolution imagery found on Google Earth for visual confirmation if the scale or resolution of the Landsat imagery requires it. We then extract drainage basins and DFS polygon parameters and calculate areal extents in order to evaluate whether such a size relationship exists within basins, regionally across several basins, or across different basin types (e.g., endorheic vs exhoreic). A limitation of this approach is that we cannot evaluate sediment volumes, only aerial coverage. Results from this study may provide a better understanding of extrabasinal processes that control DFS shape and size.