On the Non-Uniqueness of Sediment Yield

Monday, 15 December 2014
Jongho Kim, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, Valeriy Yu Ivanov, University of Michigan, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Ann Arbor, MI, United States and Simone Fatichi, ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
There has been ample experimental evidence that soil erosion does not necessarily occur at the same rate, given the same amount of rainfall or runoff. Such a non-unique phenomenon has been often referred to in literature as due to ‘natural variability’. Our recent study hypothesized that uncertainties in the distribution and properties of a sediment layer can be a potential clue to one of the reasons of the non-unique sediment yield. Specifically, numerical experimentation with a sophisticated two-dimensional model showed that a deposited layer plays two conflicting roles: it can both increase and decrease soil erosion, given the same magnitude of runoff. The difference in erodibilities of the "original, intact soil layer" and the "deposited, loose soil layer" and the composition of soil particles in the underlying layers give rise to the non-uniqueness of the amount of eroded materials. In continuing efforts, we attempt to investigate this phenomenon using a comprehensive the Universal Soil Loss Erosion (USLE) database, that contains data on paired hillslopes that show a high degree of non-uniqueness in the response, even though the hillslopes exhibit the same topography, soil type, rainfall and meteorological forcings, and landuse. An underlying hypothesis of this study is that uncertainties in the distribution of soil substrate prior to a rainfall event lead to low predictability skill, i.e., a stochastically-varying outcome. A large number of simulation cases demonstrating the proposed hypothesis are conducted using a coupled numerical model, tRIBS-VEGGIE-FEaST (Triangulated irregular network - based Real time Integrated Basin Simulator- VEGetation Generator for Interactive Evolution -Flow Erosion and Sediment Transport).