Downstream lightening and upward heavying, sorting of sediments of uniform grain size but differing in density

Friday, 19 December 2014: 10:20 AM
Enrica Viparelli, university of South Carolina, columbia, SC, United States, Luca Solari, University of Florence, Florence, Italy and Kimberly M Hill, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, United States
Downstream fining, i.e. the tendency for a gradual decrease in grain size in the downstream direction, has been observed and studied in alluvial rivers and in laboratory flumes. Laboratory experiments and field observations show that the vertical sorting pattern over a small Gilbert delta front is characterized by an upward fining profile, with preferential deposition of coarse particles in the lowermost part of the deposit. The present work is an attempt to answer the following questions. Are there analogous sorting patterns in mixtures of sediment particles having the same grain size but differing density? To investigate this, we performed experiments at the Hydrosystems Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During the experiments a Gilbert delta formed and migrated downstream allowing for the study of transport and sorting processes on the surface and within the deposit. The experimental results show 1) preferential deposition of heavy particles in the upstream part of the deposit associated with a pattern of “downstream lightening”; and 2) a vertical sorting pattern over the delta front characterized by a pattern of “upward heavying” with preferential deposition of light particles in the lowermost part of the deposit. The observed downstream lightening is analogous of the downstream fining with preferential deposition of heavy (coarse) particles in the upstream part of the deposit. The observed upward heavying was unexpected because, considering the particle mass alone, the heavy (coarse) particles should have been preferentially deposited in the lowermost part of the deposit. Further, the application of classical fractional bedload transport relations suggests that in the case of mixtures of particles of uniform size and different densities equal mobility is not approached. We hypothesize that granular physics mechanisms traditionally associated with sheared granular flows may be responsible for the observed upward heavying and for the deviation from equal mobility.