Spatial autoregressive structure of meander evolution revisited

I. Güneralp, Bruce L. Rhoads

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Meandering rivers are intrinsically dynamic geomorphic systems that exhibit progressive change in their planforms as they migrate across their floodplains. Recent research in river meandering has focused on the development of linear mathematical models of meander migration. These models, which are based on momentum and mass conservation principles, aim to capture the basic physical mechanisms governing flow-sediment interactions in meandering rivers. A common attribute of the models is that bank erosion is represented as a linear function of near-bank velocity and near-bank velocity is expressed as a spatial convolution of channel curvature. Thus, in all of these process-based models, planform curvature, as mediated through its influence on near-bank velocity, has a strong effect on channel migration. Mathematical details of the curvature-migration relation depend on the number of curvature related convolution terms in the model; the number of such terms increases with increasing model order. Although first- through fourth-order linear models have been developed, few studies have examined rigorously the relation between planform curvature and migration in natural rivers to determine if even the simplest model-based curvature-migration relations correspond to relations derived from empirical data.This paper evaluates empirically the spatial structure of the relation between upstream planform curvature and local channel migration for bends along the Beatton River, British Columbia, Canada. In particular, we compare empirically derived curvature-migration relations to the exponential-decay form of this relation embodied in first-order linear mathematical models of meander migration. For this purpose, we use a refined empirical methodology and recently developed analytical techniques that overcome limitations of a similar analysis of the Beatton River bends conducted by Furbish (1991). The refined methodology examines the influence of upstream lags of planform curvature on migration rates. The new analytical techniques provide data on channel curvature and migration rate at a much finer spatial interval than in the analysis of Furbish (1991). The validity of the approach for revealing the exponential-decay structure of the curvature-migration relation is confirmed by applying it to a synthetic data set generated using a first-order mathematical model. In contrast to the findings of Furbish (1991), our results for the Beatton River bends show that the structure of the spatially distributed upstream curvature effect is more complex than pure exponential decay. The findings suggest that oscillatory components of the relation between curvature and migration rate are important in the planform dynamics of individual complex bends. These findings are consistent with results of recent empirical analysis of the curvature-migration relation based on discrete signal processing and with the structure of the curvature-migration relation in high-order mathematical models of meander migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-106
Number of pages16
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Channel migration
  • Compound loop
  • Curvature
  • River meanders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial autoregressive structure of meander evolution revisited'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this