Dynamics of meandering rivers in finite-length channels: Linear theory

Samantha F. Weiss, Jonathan J.L. Higdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Meandering channels are dynamic landforms that arise as a result of fluid mechanic and sedimentary processes. Their evolution has been described by the meander-morphodynamic equations, which dictate that channel curvature and bed topography give rise to local perturbations in streamwise fluid velocity, prompting the preferential erosion and sediment deposition that constitute meander behaviour. Novel mathematical conditions are presented to guarantee unique solutions for the linearized equations in non-periodic domains with finite boundaries. With the boundary condition specification sufficient for the uniqueness proof one finds a well-posed initial-boundary-value problem amenable to standard numerical techniques for partial differential equations. This provides a pathway for improved numerical algorithms for simulations of meandering river dynamics. Previous theoretical analysis for linear stability theory in meandering dynamics has been restricted to spatially periodic systems. The present effort develops new results for linear stability theory in non-periodic systems with temporal driving at system boundaries as well as non-homogeneous initial conditions. Predictions for temporal driving at the inlets for non-periodic finite domains provide clarification for observed behaviour in laboratory flumes where driven conditions at the inlet avoids the long-term decay of all meanders observed in flumes with fixed entry conditions. Linear stability theory for finite domains confirms that a continuous perturbation is required for sustained meandering. Original scaling arguments are presented for the dependence of the meander migration rate on geological parameters, showing that the rate of channel migration increases with increased width, downreach slope and bank erodibility, and decreases with increased volumetric flow rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA11
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - May 10 2022


  • river dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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