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Generic theory for channel sinuosity

Lazarus, Eli Dalton and Constantine, Jose Antonio 2013. Generic theory for channel sinuosity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110 (21) , pp. 8447-8452. 10.1073/pnas.1214074110

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Abstract

Sinuous patterns traced by fluid flows are a ubiquitous feature of physical landscapes on Earth, Mars, the volcanic floodplains of the Moon and Venus, and other planetary bodies. Typically discussed as a consequence of migration processes in meandering rivers, sinuosity is also expressed in channel types that show little or no indication of meandering. Sinuosity is sometimes described as “inherited” from a preexisting morphology, which still does not explain where the inherited sinuosity came from. For a phenomenon so universal as sinuosity, existing models of channelized flows do not explain the occurrence of sinuosity in the full variety of settings in which it manifests, or how sinuosity may originate. Here we present a generic theory for sinuous flow patterns in landscapes. Using observations from nature and a numerical model of flow routing, we propose that flow resistance (representing landscape roughness attributable to topography or vegetation density) relative to surface slope exerts a fundamental control on channel sinuosity that is effectively independent of internal flow dynamics. Resistance-dominated surfaces produce channels with higher sinuosity than those of slope-dominated surfaces because increased resistance impedes downslope flow. Not limited to rivers, the hypothesis we explore pertains to sinuosity as a geomorphic pattern. The explanation we propose is inclusive enough to account for a wide variety of sinuous channel types in nature, and can serve as an analytical tool for determining the sinuosity a landscape might support.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
Uncontrolled Keywords: geopatterns; landscape controls; threadlike flows
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
ISSN: 0027-8424
Funders: NERC
Last Modified: 12 May 2020 13:53
URI: http://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/46908

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