Geophysical Research Letters
Alluvial rivers often exhibit self-similar gravel size distributions and abrupt gravel-sand transitions. Experiments suggest that these sorting patterns are established rapidly, but howand how fastthis convergence occurs in the field is unknown. We examine the establishment of downstream sorting patterns in a kilometer-scale alluvial fan. The sharp transition from canyon to unconfined, channelized fan provides a well-defined boundary condition. The channel changes from deep and entrenched at the fan apex to shallow and depositional over a short distance, exhibiting nonequilibrium behavior. The resulting gravel-fining profile is not self-similar; the particle size distribution narrows until approximate equal mobility is achieved. Downfan, the gravel-sand transition appears to exhibit a self-similar form; field and laboratory data collapse when downstream distance is normalized by the location of the transition. Results suggest a generalized sorting profile for alluvial fans as a consequence of the threshold of motion and nonequilibrium channels.
Research Track Category: