Erosion of glacial till from the St. Clair River (Great Lakes basin)

Jose M. Mier, Marcelo H. Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Variations in water level observed in Lakes Michigan and Huron during the last few decades have motivated a comprehensive study involving climatic, hydrologic and hydraulic factors organized by International Joint Commission of the Great Lakes. It has been submitted, among other possible causes, that changes in conveyance in the St. Clair River could be contributing to the lowering of the upper Great Lakes water level. Sediment transport processes, in particular bed scour and erosion, can affect significantly a river's conveyance, thus creating the need to assess the erodibility properties of the river bed. To this end, laboratory tests were performed in order to obtain the value of the critical shear stress needed to erode the cohesive fraction of the bed sediment material, known as glacial till, from the St. Clair River. Different flows with increasing velocities were run up to the point where initial sediment erosion could be observed. Through detailed near-bed velocity measurements using a laser Doppler velocimetry (LDV) system, a value of 4.2N/m2 was obtained as the critical shear stress for the erosion of glacial till. A threshold for the critical shear stress for erosion of similar cohesive sediments was also found and expressed in dimensionless form. These results could be used in combination with mathematical models to estimate the risk of scour and erosion at locations where the glacial till is exposed to both strong currents and flow forces induced by the large navigation vessels commonly observed along the course of the St. Clair River.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-410
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Erosion
  • Glacial till
  • Great Lakes.
  • Laser Doppler velocimetry (LDV)
  • Sediment transport
  • Shear stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology

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