Quantifying river form variations in the Mississippi Basin using remotely sensed imagery

Miller, Z. F.; Pavelsky, T. M.; Allen, G. H.

Geographic variations in river form are often estimated using the framework of downstream hydraulic geometry (DHG), which links spatial changes in discharge to channel width, depth, and velocity through power-law models. These empirical relationships are developed from limited in situ data and do not capture the full variability in channel form. Here, we present a data set of 1.2 ×10 6 river widths in the Mississippi Basin measured from the Landsat-derived National Land Cover Dataset that characterizes width variability observationally. We construct DHG for the Mississippi drainage by linking digital elevation model (DEM)-estimated discharge values to each width measurement. Well-developed DHG exists over the entire Mississippi Basin, though individual sub-basins vary substantially from existing width–discharge scaling. Comparison of depth predictions from traditional depth–discharge relationships with a new model incorporating width into the DHG framework shows that including width improves depth estimates by, on average, 24%. Results suggest that channel geometry derived from remotely sensed imagery better characterizes variability in river form than do estimates based on DHG.

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Miller, Z. F. / Pavelsky, T. M. / Allen, G. H.: Quantifying river form variations in the Mississippi Basin using remotely sensed imagery. 2014. Copernicus Publications.

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