Role of river bends for the formation and evolution of channel bedforms: Combined field studies and numerical modeling from the tidally influenced zones of the Yellow River, China, and Mississippi River, USA.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Hongbo Ma1, Jeffrey A Nittrouer1, Andrew Moodie1, Brandee Calson1 and Gary Parker2, (1)Rice University, Houston, TX, United States, (2)University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana, IL, United States
River bedforms represent the unstable interface between fluid flow and the granular channel bed, and these features play an important role for modifying flow resistance and sediment transport rates, and thus influencing river morphology. Although widely observed in natural rivers, bedforms are difficult to measure quantitatively and are rarely connected to other fluvial morphological processes. This study presents high-resolution channel bathymetric data from the tidally influenced, lowermost Yellow River, China, collected using a multibeam swath profiler. Repeat surveys were conducted over rising and flood discharge conditions, which is the first such kind of survey in Yellow River. The bathymetry data show that for all water discharges, a flat bed, devoid of a thalweg or dunes, persists within straight-reach segments near the bends of the Yellow River, despite the bed consisting of fine sand. Interestingly, in bend segments, the channel deepens, and linear dunes develop. Moreover, as the water discharge increases over time, the edge of dune field contained in the bend segments propagates into the adjacent upstream and downstream straight-reach segments. In contrasting case study, Nittrouer et al. (2008) reported persistent dune field in the straight reaches of the tidally influenced Mississippi River; however these dunes disappear in neighboring river bends. Based on the two cases of the Yellow and Mississippi Rivers, which have fundamentally different conditions of water-to-sediment discharge ratios, the threshold condition of bedform formation and stability are evaluated, and connected to local conditions of river bend morphology. This work improves the understanding of the co-evolution of bedforms and flow conditions in river bends, which are intertwined and important morphological processes that affect fluvial-deltaic sediment transport dynamics. In addition, the straight-bend structure is a basic element of river morphology, and so the results of this study are extendable to other lowland, meandering river systems.