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Experimental river delta size set by multiple floods and backwater hydrodynamics

Ganti, Vamsi and Chadwick, Austin J. and Hassenruck-Gudipati, Hima J. and Fuller, Brian M. and Lamb, Michael P. (2016) Experimental river delta size set by multiple floods and backwater hydrodynamics. Science Advances, 2 (5). Art. No. e1501768. ISSN 2375-2548. PMCID PMC4928958. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1501768.

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River deltas worldwide are currently under threat of drowning and destruction by sea-level rise, subsidence, and oceanic storms, highlighting the need to quantify their growth processes. Deltas are built through construction of sediment lobes, and emerging theories suggest that the size of delta lobes scales with backwater hydrodynamics, but these ideas are difficult to test on natural deltas that evolve slowly. We show results of the first laboratory delta built through successive deposition of lobes that maintain a constant size. We show that the characteristic size of delta lobes emerges because of a preferential avulsion node—the location where the river course periodically and abruptly shifts—that remains fixed spatially relative to the prograding shoreline. The preferential avulsion node in our experiments is a consequence of multiple river floods and Froude-subcritical flows that produce persistent nonuniform flows and a peak in net channel deposition within the backwater zone of the coastal river. In contrast, experimental deltas without multiple floods produce flows with uniform velocities and delta lobes that lack a characteristic size. Results have broad applications to sustainable management of deltas and for decoding their stratigraphic record on Earth and Mars.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription Materials CentralArticle
Ganti, Vamsi0000-0003-2165-6052
Chadwick, Austin J.0000-0002-2552-0083
Hassenruck-Gudipati, Hima J.0000-0003-3885-7387
Fuller, Brian M.0000-0002-4647-4717
Lamb, Michael P.0000-0002-5701-0504
Additional Information:© 2016 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC). Submitted 4 December 2015; Accepted 26 April 2016; Published 20 May 2016. Acknowledgments: Critical and constructive comments from C. Paola, D. Mohrig, K. Whipple, D. Edmonds, and D. Jerolmack on an earlier draft improved the presentation of this work. Funding: We acknowledge support from NSF (grants OCE-1233685 and 1427177) and the California Institute Technology Terrestrial Hazards Observations and Reporting Center program made possible by Foster and Coco Stanback. V.G. acknowledges further support from National Center for Earth-Surface Dynamics 2 synthesis postdoctoral fellowship and the Imperial College London Junior Research Fellowship. Author contributions: M.P.L. and V.G. conceived the study and designed the experiments. All authors helped perform the experiments and analyze the data. V.G. and M.P.L. wrote the paper with input from other authors. Competing interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Data and materials availability: All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and/or the Supplementary Materials. Additional data related to this paper are available upon request from V.G. and A.J.C.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Caltech Terrestrial Hazards Observations and Reporting CenterUNSPECIFIED
Foster and Coco Stanback Postdoctoral FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
National Center for Earth-Surface DynamicsUNSPECIFIED
Imperial College LondonUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:5
PubMed Central ID:PMC4928958
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160718-083412854
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Official Citation:V. Ganti, A. J. Chadwick, H. J. Hassenruck-Gudipati, B. M. Fuller, M. P. Lamb, Experimental river delta size set by multiple floods and backwater hydrodynamics. Sci. Adv. 2, e1501768 (2016)
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:69081
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:19 Jul 2016 22:16
Last Modified:27 Apr 2022 22:47

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