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Mechanics of flow and sediment transport in delta distributary channels

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Abstract

Predicting the planform and dimensions of a channel downstream from a confluence of two smaller channels with known sediment and water supplies is a fundamental, well-studied problem in geomorphology and engineering. An analogous but less well understood problem is found well downstream of such confluences, where large river channels split into two or more distributary channels on a river delta. In this case, both the flow and sediment supplies in the downstream distributaries are set by the dynamics near the bifurcation of the upstream channel and by downstream boundary conditions. Over time, the pattern of erosion and deposition in the distributary channels gives rise to variations in the amount of water and sediment routed into them. In the simplest case, this results in channel switching on deltas, but in a more general sense these dynamics produce a rich suite of interesting morphologic change contributing both to the evolution of the channel distributary network and the overall evolution of the delta. As part of a study to develop a better understanding of these processes, we conducted a field study measuring the detailed morphology of the Hong-Luoc junction on the Red River downstream of Hanoi, Vietnam. This junction was selected for such a study because it has a 1,000-year history, modern observations suggest that it is currently switching (changing the proportion of sediment and streamflow provided to each of the distributary channels), and hydrologic configuration of the junction allows for the study of two bifurcations and one confluence in a single junction complex. In this paper, our morphologic observations are used in computational flow models to show how flow and sediment transport changes as a function of total discharge upstream of the junction. This is a key component of understanding how the junction attains stability over a range of flows or how imbalances in the distribution of flow and sediment transport lead to destabilization of the channel bifurcation.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Mechanics of flow and sediment transport in delta distributary channels
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Proceeding of the 2011 EIT International Conference on Water Resources Engineering
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Central Branch
Description 7 p.
First page 8
Last page 14
Conference Title 2011 EIT International Conference on Water Resources Engineering