Flood Induced Increases in Aeolian Transport Along the Missouri River

Friday, 19 December 2014: 9:30 AM
Adam James Benthem1, Larry Strong2, Edward Schenk3, Katherine Skalak4, Cliff Hupp4 and Joel Galloway5, (1)National Research Program Reston, Reston, VA, United States, (2)Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, USGS, Jamestown, ND, United States, (3)USGS, Baltimore, MD, United States, (4)U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, United States, (5)U.S. Geological Survey, Bismarck, ND, United States
In 2011, heavy winter snow melt combined with extensive spring rains caused the Missouri River to experience the most extensive flooding since the river was dammed in the 1950s. Large sections of the river banks, islands, and floodplains experienced weeks of prolonged inundation, resulting in extensive sand deposition as up to1 km inland from the established channel. Though locally variable, deposits of up to 3m of loose sand were deposited on the floodplain and extensive areas of shrub, grasslands, and agricultural fields were completely buried or had vegetation washed away in the inundation zone. The flooding also created a number of new unvegetated islands which provide important habitat for endangered species including the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus). These newly created sand surfaces are unconsolidated and have very little vegetation to prevent aeolian transport. Strong sustained regional winds of up to 20m/s (45mph) cause substantial sediment fluxes which modify landscape topography, shift river morphology, and increase regional dust levels.

Our study monitors and quantifies the increase in aeolian transport that occurred following flooding along the Garrison Reach, a 110 km section of free flowing Missouri River in North Dakota. In 2012 and 2013 we measured sand transport and accumulation rates using Leatherman style sand traps and erosion pins to at 9 sites of varying vegetation densities. We apply these flux rates to a high resolution remote sensing vegetation map to estimate the total flux of sand for this segment of the river. We also quantify total available new sand for transport using repeat Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) coverage from before and after the flood and examine the relationship between sand deposition and the rate of reestablishment of vegetation. All of these results are used to estimate the scale of flood induced aeolian processes and predict where they may continue to influence the landscape.