Can Bankfull Discharge and Bankfull Channel Characteristics of an Alluvial Meandering River be Cospecified From a Flow Duration Curve?

Kensuke Naito, Gary Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a simple modeling framework for the codetermination of bankfull discharge and corresponding bankfull channel geometry (width, depth, and longitudinal channel slope) of an alluvial meandering river. We specifically consider a sand-bed river whose floodplain is capped by a mud-rich layer. We inquire as to how the wide spectrum of flows to which the river is subjected leads to the establishment of specific values for bankfull discharge and associated bankfull geometry. Here we provide a physically based predictor of bankfull discharge that goes beyond the simple assumption of the 1.5-year flood discharge. We do this using physics-based submodels for channel and floodplain processes. We show that bankfull discharge and bankfull geometry are established as a result of (i) floodplain vertical accretion due to overbank deposition, (ii) migration of the inner bank and outer cut bank, (iii) net removal of floodplain sediment and reduction in average floodplain height due to lateral channel shift, and (iv) in-channel downstream bed material transport. The flow duration curve is employed to quantify the effect of these processes, as well as to account for flow variability. Our model captures the spatiotemporal evolution of bankfull discharge, depth, width, and down-channel slope toward equilibrium for specified flow duration curve and watershed characteristics. Our new framework can be used for assessing long-term river response to change in sediment supply or flow duration curve. A model implementation is presented for the case of the Trinity River, TX, USA, to demonstrate the use of the model and its behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2381-2401
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • alluvial meandering river
  • bankfull discharge
  • bankfull geometry
  • flow duration curve
  • lateral channel migration
  • overbank deposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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