In this study we used hydrologic proxies to develop a daily sediment load time-series, which agrees with decadal sediment load estimates, when integrated. Hindcast simulations of bathymetric change in estuaries require daily sediment loads from major tributary rivers, to capture the episodic delivery of sediment during multi-day freshwater flow pulses. Two independent decadal sediment load estimates are available for the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta, California prior to 1959, but they must be downscaled to a daily interval for use in hindcast models. Daily flow and sediment load data to the Delta are available after 1930 and 1959, respectively, but bathymetric change simulations for San Francisco Bay prior to this require a method to generate daily sediment load estimates into the Delta. We used two historical proxies, monthly rainfall and unimpaired flow magnitudes, to generate monthly unimpaired flows to the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta for the 1851-1929 period. This step generated the shape of the monthly hydrograph. These historical monthly flows were compared to unimpaired monthly flows from the modern era (1967-1987), and a least-squares metric selected a modern water year analogue for each historical water year. The daily hydrograph for the modern analogue was then assigned to the historical year and scaled to match the flow volume estimated by dendrochronology methods, providing the correct total flow for the year. We applied a sediment rating curve to this time-series of daily flows, to generate daily sediment loads for 1851-1958. The rating curve was calibrated with the two independent decadal sediment load estimates, over two distinct periods. This novel technique retained the timing and magnitude of freshwater flows and sediment loads, without damping variability or net sediment loads to San Francisco Bay. The time-series represents the hydraulic mining period with sustained periods of increased sediment loads, and a dramatic decrease after 1910, corresponding to a reduction in available mining debris. The analogue selection procedure also permits exploration of the morphological hydrograph concept, where a limited set of hydrographs is used to simulate the same bathymetric change as the actual set of hydrographs. The final daily sediment load time-series and morphological hydrograph concept will be applied as landward boundary conditions for hindcasting simulations of bathymetric change in San Francisco Bay.
Additional publication details
Temporal downscaling of decadal sediment load estimates to a daily interval for use in hindcast simulations