Testing morphodynamic controls on the location and frequency of river avulsions on fans versus deltas: Huanghe (Yellow River), China
Lamb, Michael P.
Nittrouer, Jeffrey A.
A mechanistic understanding of river avulsion location and frequency is needed to predict the growth of alluvial fans and deltas. The Huanghe, China, provides a rare opportunity to test emerging theories because its high sediment load produces regular avulsions at two distinct nodes. Where the river debouches from the Loess Plateau, avulsions occur at an abrupt decrease in bed slope and reoccur at a time interval (607 years) consistent with a channel-filling timescale set by the superelevation height of the levees. Downstream, natural deltaic avulsions reoccur at a timescale that is fast (7 years) compared to channel-filling timescale due to large stage-height variability during floods. Unlike the upstream node, deltaic avulsions cluster at a location influenced by backwater hydrodynamics and show evidence for episodic downstream migration in concert with progradation of the shoreline, providing new expectations for the interplay between avulsion location, frequency, shoreline rugosity, and delta morphology.