A reduced-complexity model for river delta formation – Part 1: Modeling deltas with channel dynamics
- 1Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering, National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics, Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
- 2Department of Geology and Geophysics, National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics, Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
- *now at: Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering and Center for Research in Water Resources, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
Abstract. In this work we develop a reduced-complexity model (RCM) for river delta formation (referred to as DeltaRCM in the following). It is a rule-based cellular morphodynamic model, in contrast to reductionist models based on detailed computational fluid dynamics. The basic framework of this model (DeltaRCM) consists of stochastic parcel-based cellular routing schemes for water and sediment and a set of phenomenological rules for sediment deposition and erosion. The outputs of the model include a depth-averaged flow field, water surface elevation and bed topography that evolve in time. Results show that DeltaRCM is able (1) to resolve a wide range of channel dynamics – including elongation, bifurcation, avulsion and migration – and (2) to produce a variety of deltas such as alluvial fan deltas and deltas with multiple orders of bifurcations. We also demonstrate a simple stratigraphy recording component which tracks the distribution of coarse and fine materials and the age of the deposits. Essential processes that must be included in reduced-complexity delta models include a depth-averaged flow field that guides sediment transport a nontrivial water surface profile that accounts for backwater effects at least in the main channels, both bedload and suspended sediment transport, and topographic steering of sediment transport.