Computational fluid dynamics simulations of the Late Pleistocene Lake Bonneville flood

Journal of Hydrology
By: , and 

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Abstract

At approximately 18.0 ka, pluvial Lake Bonneville reached its maximum level. At its northeastern extent it was impounded by alluvium of the Marsh Creek Fan, which breached at some point north of Red Rock Pass (Idaho), leading to one of the largest floods on Earth. About 5320 km3 of water was discharged into the Snake River drainage and ultimately into the Columbia River. We use a 0D model and a 2D non-linear depth-averaged hydrodynamic model to aid understanding of outflow dynamics, specifically evaluating controls on the amount of water exiting the Lake Bonneville basin exerted by the Red Rock Pass outlet lithology and geometry as well as those imposed by the internal lake geometry of the Bonneville basin. These models are based on field evidence of prominent lake levels, hypsometry and terrain elevations corrected for post-flood isostatic deformation of the lake basin, as well as reconstructions of the topography at the outlet for both the initial and final stages of the flood. Internal flow dynamics in the northern Lake Bonneville basin during the flood were affected by the narrow passages separating the Cache Valley from the main body of Lake Bonneville. This constriction imposed a water-level drop of up to 2.7 m at the time of peak-flow conditions and likely reduced the peak discharge at the lake outlet by about 6%. The modeled peak outlet flow is 0.85·106 m3 s−1. Energy balance calculations give an estimate for the erodibility coefficient for the alluvial Marsh Creek divide of ∼0.005 m y−1 Pa−1.5, at least two orders of magnitude greater than for the underlying bedrock at the outlet. Computing quasi steady-state water flows, water elevations, water currents and shear stresses as a function of the water-level drop in the lake and for the sequential stages of erosion in the outlet gives estimates of the incision rates and an estimate of the outflow hydrograph during the Bonneville Flood: About 18 days would have been required for the outflow to grow from 10% to 100% of its peak value. At the time of peak flow, about 10% of the lake volume would have already exited; eroding about 1 km3 of alluvium from the outlet, and the lake level would have dropped by about 10.6 m.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Computational fluid dynamics simulations of the Late Pleistocene Lake Bonneville flood
Series title Journal of Hydrology
DOI 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2018.03.065
Volume 561
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 1
Last page 15
Country United States
Other Geospatial Lake Bonneville