GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 185-9
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM


ACKERMAN, Tobias R., Geological Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716 and PIZZUTO, James, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Delaware, 255 Academy St., Newark, DE 19716,

Sediment may be stored briefly or for long periods in alluvial deposits adjacent to rivers. The duration of sediment storage may affect diagenesis, and controls the timing of sediment delivery, affecting the propagation of upland sediment signals caused by tectonics, climate change, and land use, and the efficacy of watershed management strategies designed to reduce sediment loading to estuaries and reservoirs. Understanding the functional form of storage time distributions can help to extrapolate from limited field observations and improve forecasts of sediment loading. We simulate stratigraphy adjacent to a modeled river where meander migration is driven by channel curvature. The basal unit is built immediately as the channel migrates away, analogous to a point bar; rules for overbank (flood) deposition create thicker deposits at low elevations and near the channel, forming topographic features analogous to natural levees, scroll bars, and terraces. Deposit age is tracked everywhere throughout the simulation, and the storage time is recorded when the channel returns and erodes the sediment at each pixel. 210 ky of simulated run time is sufficient for the channel to migrate 10,500 channel widths, but only the final 90 ky are analyzed. Storage time distributions are well fit by exponential functions until 500 years (point bar) or 600 years (overbank) representing the youngest 50% of eroded sediment. Then (until an age of 12 ky, representing the next 48% (point bar) or 45% (overbank) of eroding sediment), the distributions are well fit by heavy tailed power functions with slopes of -1 (point bar) and -0.75 (overbank). After 12 ky (6% of model run time) the remainder of the storage time distributions become exponential (light tailed). Point bar sediment has the greatest chance (6%) of eroding at 120 years, as the river reworks recently deposited point bars. Overbank sediment has an 8% chance of eroding after 1 time step, a chance that declines by half after 3 time steps. The high probability of eroding young overbank deposits occurs as the river reworks recently formed natural levees. These results show that depositional environment affects river floodplain storage times shorter than a few centuries, and suggest that a power law distribution with a truncated tail may be the most reasonable functional fit.
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