On how spatial variations of channel width influence river profile curvature

Carles Ferrer-Boix, Shawn M. Chartrand, Marwan A. Hassan, Juan P. Martín-Vide, Gary Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Longitudinal profiles of alluvial rivers usually exhibit upward-concave curvatures at equilibrium. River profile concavity has been primarily attributed to sediment downstream fining and to streamwise increments of water discharge. Conversely, upward-convex profiles have been typically associated with tectonic and geologic controls and with outlet base-level drops. Equations to describe river profiles at equilibrium developed from mass conservation principles do not consider longitudinal changes in channel width. This study addresses how variations in channel width can also act to control the curvature of longitudinal profiles. We develop a new theoretical framework in which the role on river profiles of downstream variations of channel width, flow discharge, bed roughness, and surface texture are explicitly shown. Unlike classical approaches for river profile evolution, this novel framework identifies physical domains for rivers to develop upward-concave/convex longitudinal profiles depending on channel width and flow discharge gradients flow intensity and surface texture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6313-6323
Number of pages11
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016


  • morphodynamics
  • rivers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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