A reduced-complexity model for river delta formation – Part 2: Assessment of the flow routing scheme
Abstract. In a companion paper (Liang et al., 2015) we introduced a reduced-complexity model (RCM) for river delta formation, developed using a parcel-based "weighted random walk" method for routing water and sediment flux. This model (referred to as DeltaRCM) consists of a flow routing scheme as the hydrodynamic component (referred to as FlowRCM) and a set of sediment transport rules as the morphodynamic component. In this work, we assess the performance of FlowRCM via a series of hydrodynamic tests by comparing the model outputs to Delft3D and theoretical predictions. These tests are designed to reveal the capability of FlowRCM to resolve flow field features that are critical to delta dynamics at the level of channel processes. In particular, we focus on (1) backwater profile, (2) flow around a mouth bar, (3) flow through a single bifurcation, and (4) flow through a distributary channel network. We show that while the simple rules are not able to reproduce all fine-scale flow structures, FlowRCM captures flow field features that are essential to deltaic processes such as bifurcations and avulsions, the partitioning of flux between channels and inundated islands, and the instability of flux distribution at channel mouths which is responsible for mouth-bar growth. Finally, we discuss advantages and limitations of FlowRCM and identify environments most suitable for it.