Downstream sweep erosion as a mechanism for bedrock valley widening: comparison between model simulations and field examples
Abigail Langston, Kansas State University Manhattan Kansas, United States. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gregory Tucker, University of Colorado Boulder Colorado, United States. email@example.com
Understanding the factors that control lateral erosion rates in bedrock channels is a frontier in geomorphology. Lateral erosion rates and the evolution of wide bedrock valleys are linked to bedrock lithology, sediment supply in the stream, and shear stress exerted on channel walls. I use a newly-developed lateral erosion component in the Landlab modeling framework to explore how model results compare with recently published field examples of downstream sweep erosion as a mechanism for gorge eradication and bedrock valley widening. The lateral erosion component dictates that lateral erosion rate is proportional to shear stress exerted on the channel walls in a bend in the river; therefore sharp bends with a smaller radius of curvature will produce faster lateral erosion. Cook et al. (2014) identified a similar mechanism they call downstream sweep erosion (DSE). They suggest that bedrock gorges can be rapidly eroded by DSE when a wide flood plain with a laterally mobile stream exists upstream of the gorge, requiring a sharp bend in the channel to enter the gorge. I set up the model domain to recreate conditions of a low relief area with a mobile channel in the upper part of the model domain and a narrow, high relief gorge in the downstream end of the model domain. I ran modeling experiments under a range of water flux and sediment mobility conditions. The model results show gorge widening that propagates downstream as described by Cook et al. (2014) and preferential erosion of blocks that protrude into the channel. The enhanced lateral erosion at channel bends and the resulting downstream sweep erosion emerge naturally from the models, matching observations in many field areas. Together this suggests that channel curvature is of fundamental importance to lateral erosion rates in bedrock channels.