Coevolution of width and sinuosity in meandering rivers

Esther C. Eke, M. J. Czapiga, E. Viparelli, Y. Shimizu, J. Imran, T. Sun, G. Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research implements a recently proposed framework for meander migration, in order to explore the coevolution of planform and channel width in a freely meandering river. In the model described here, width evolution is coupled to channel migration through two submodels, one describing bank erosion and the other describing bank deposition. Bank erosion is modelled as erosion of purely non-cohesive bank material damped by natural armouring due to basal slump blocks, and bank deposition is modelled in terms of a flow-dependent rate of vegetal encroachment. While these two submodels are specified independently, the two banks interact through the medium of the intervening channel; the morphodynamics of which is described by a fully nonlinear depth-averaged morphodynamics model. Since both banks are allowed to migrate independently, channel width is free to vary locally as a result of differential bank migration. Through a series of numerical runs, we demonstrate coevolution of local curvature, width and streamwise slope as the channel migrates over time. The correlation between the local curvature, width and bed elevation is characterized, and the nature of this relationship is explored by varying the governing parameters. The results show that, by varying a parameter representing the ratio between a reference bank erosion rate and a reference bank deposition rate, the model is able to reproduce the broad range of river width-curvature correlations observed in nature. This research represents a step towards providing general metrics for predicting width variation patterns in river systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-174
Number of pages48
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Dec 10 2014


  • river dynamics
  • sediment transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering

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