Numerical model of sediment pulses and sediment-supply disturbances in mountain rivers

Yantao Cui, Gary Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sediment pulses in rivers can result from many mechanisms including landslides entering from side slopes and debris flows entering from tributaries. Artificial sediment pulses can be caused by the removal of a dam. This paper presents a numerical model for the simulation of gravel bedload transport and sediment pulse evolution in mountain rivers. A combination of the backwater and quasi-normal flow formulations is used to calculate flow parameters. Gravel bedload transport is calculated with the surface-based bedload equation of Parker in 1990. The Exner equation of sediment continuity is used to express the mass balance at different grain size groups and lithologies, as well as the abrasion of gravel. The river is assumed to have no geological controls such as bedrock outcrops and immobile boulder pavements. The results of nine numerical experiments designed to study various key parameters relevant to the evolution of sediment pulses are reported here. Results of the numerical runs indicate that the evolution of sediment pulses in mountain rivers is dominated by dispersion rather than translation. Here dispersion is an expression for the observation that a sediment pulse aggrades both upstream and downstream of its apex whereas its amplitude decreases in time. The results also indicate that grain abrasion is an important and yet often neglected mechanism in removing the excess sediment associated with pulse inputs from some mountain rivers. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)646-656
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hydraulic Engineering
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Channel morphology
  • Mountain streams
  • Movable bed models
  • Numerical models
  • Sediment transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering

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