Meandering River Dynamics

2.0 hrs
Run online
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    Zoltan Sylvestre at Texas Bureau of Economic Geology.
    Irina Overeem at University of Colorado.

Meanderpy is a Python module that implements a simple numerical model of meandering, the one described by Howard & Knutson in their 1984 paper "Sufficient Conditions for River Meandering: A Simulation Approach".

This is a kinematic model that is based on computing migration rate as the weighted sum of upstream curvatures; flow velocity does not enter the equation. Curvature is transformed into a 'nominal migration rate' through multiplication with a migration rate (or erodibility) constant; in the Howard and Knutson, 1984 paper this is a nonlinear relationship based on field observations that suggested a complex link between curvature and migration rate.

In the 'meanderpy' module we use this linear relationship between the nominal migration rate and curvature, as recent work using time-lapse satellite imagery suggests that high curvatures result in high migration rates (Sylvester et al., 2019).

You can read more about the model, find references at:

There is a keynote lecture on the concepts behind this model that you can watch here:

Classroom organization
This is a self-contained jupyter notebook using meander py. It is recommended the instructor introduces concepts of meandering rivers, and students read papers on meadner migration rate - i.e. the papers directly associated with the model. Students can run through the examples, and then assignments can be worked on plenary in a lab style class or as homework. It is recommended that results are being discussed plenary after the completion of the exercises.

Download associated file: MeanderRiverDynamics slides.ppt

Learning objectives
  • learn how to save a plot in python, and make a movie from a model simulation
  • implement basic calculations of river hydraulics and morphological relationships on command line
Key concepts
  • learn about the planview morphology of meandering rivers
  • learn how to quantify sinuosity, relationship between slope,
  • learn how meandering rivers migrate

Lab notes
Notes are in the associated jupyter notebook.

  • Sylvester, Z., Durkin, P., and Covault, J.A., 2019, High curvatures drive river meandering: Geology, v. 47, p. 263–266, doi:10.1130/G45608.1.
  • Howard, A, Knutson, T., 1994. Sufficient conditions for meandering.