Numerical simulation of river meandering with self-evolving banks

Kazutake Asahi, Yasuyuki Shimizu, Jonathan Nelson, Gary Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, the natural process of river meandering is captured in a computational model that considers the effects of bank erosion, the process of land accretion along the inner banks of meander bends, and the formation of channel cutoffs. The methodology for predicting bank erosion explicitly includes a submodel treating the formation and eventual removal of slump blocks. The accretion of bank material on the inner bank is modeled by defining the time scale over which areas that are originally channel become land. Channel cutoff formation is treated relatively simply by recomputing the channel alignment at a single model time step when migrating banks meet. The model is used to compute meandering processes in both steady and unsteady flows. The key features of this new model are the ability (a) to describe bank depositional and bank erosional responses separately, (b) to couple them to bed morphodynamics, and thus (c) to describe coevolving river width and sinuosity. Two cases of steady flow are considered, one with a larger discharge (i.e., "bankfull") and one with a smaller discharge (i.e., "low flow"). In the former case, the shear stress is well above the critical shear stress, but in the latter case, it is initially below it. In at least one case of constant discharge, the planform pattern can develop some sinuosity, but the pattern appears to deviate somewhat from that observed in natural meandering channels. For the case of unsteady flow, discharge variation is modeled in the simplest possible manner by cyclically alternating the two discharges used in the steady flow computations. This model produces a rich pattern of meander planform evolution that is consistent with that observed in natural rivers. Also, the relationship between the meandering evolution and the return time scale of floods is investigated by the model under the several unsteady flow patterns. The results indicate that meandering planforms have different shapes depending on the values of these two scales. In predicting meander evolution, it is important to consider the ratio of these two time scales in addition to such factors as bank erosion, slump block formation and decay, bar accretion, and cutoff formation, which are also included in the model. Key Points Natural process of river meandering is captured by our meandering model Discharge variation plays a key role in determining meandering river planform

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2208-2229
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • bank erosion
  • channel cutoff
  • discharge variation
  • land accretion
  • meandering
  • slump block

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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