A Synthetic View of Delta Progradation, Distributary Channel Stability and Alluvial Aggradation in Terms of the Control of Basin Water Depth

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 2:55 PM
Tetsuji Muto, Nagasaki University, Nagasaki, Japan
Recent progress in experimental stratigraphy of river deltas has brought an implication that basin water depth seriously affects not only delta progradation, but also distributary channel behavior and alluvial aggradation of the delta plain. A series of experiments conducted with differential basement suggests that a prograding delta can retain its isotropic shoreline configuration even though there is significant variation in basin water depth in the transverse direction, and thus that local basin water depth affects local residence time and avulsion frequency of distributary channels. With deeper basin water, a delta progrades slowly, distributary channels migrate slowly and avulse less frequently, and the feeder alluvial system aggrades slowly. Another series of experiments, which were conducted to produce a 2D graded alluvial channel, reveals that a delta facing a very deep water basin does not prograde, its distributary channels do not migrate, and the feeder alluvial system does not aggrade at all (i.e. the state of grade). These experimental facts imply a synthetic understanding of delta progradation, distributary channel stability and alluvial aggradation, in terms of the control of basin water depth. This novel understanding can be expressed in part by a simple geometrical model. Dimensionless rates of (1) delta progradation, (2) channel migration and (3) alluvial aggradation are expressed with an identical numerical formula that can be specified only with dimensionless basin water depth and alluvial slope normalized with the delta’s foreset slope. Values of those dimensionless rates, ranging between 0 and 1, denote how close the feeder alluvial system is to grade: 0 for grade and 1 for perfect aggradation. The three dimensionless rates, or grade index, are also applicable to a river delta growing with sea level change, as far as it retains an isotropic shoreline configuration.