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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2017-28
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
08 May 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).
Developing and evaluating a theory for the lateral erosion of bedrock channels for use in landscape evolution models
Abigail L. Langston1 and Gregory E. Tucker2,3 1Department of Geography, Kansas State University, Manhattan, USA
2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
3Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
Abstract. Understanding how a bedrock river erodes its banks laterally is a frontier in geomorphology. Theory for the vertical incision of bedrock channels is widely implemented in the current generation of landscape evolution models. However, in general existing models do not seek to implement the lateral migration of bedrock channel walls. This is problematic, as modeling geomorphic processes such as terrace formation and hillslope-channel coupling depends on accurate simulation of valley widening. We have developed and implemented a theory for the lateral migration of bedrock channel walls in a catchment-scale landscape evolution model. Two model formulations are presented, one representing the slow process of widening a bedrock canyon, the other representing undercutting, slumping, and rapid downstream sediment transport that occurs in softer bedrock. Model experiments were run with a range of values for bedrock erodibility and tendency towards transport- or detachment-limited behavior and varying magnitudes of sediment flux and water discharge in order to determine the role each plays in the development of wide bedrock valleys. Results show that this simple, physics-based theory for the lateral erosion of bedrock channels produces bedrock valleys that are many times wider than the grid discretization scale. This theory for the lateral erosion of bedrock channel walls and the numerical implementation of the theory in a catchment-scale landscape evolution model is a significant first step towards understanding the factors that control the rates and spatial extent of wide bedrock valleys.

Citation: Langston, A. L. and Tucker, G. E.: Developing and evaluating a theory for the lateral erosion of bedrock channels for use in landscape evolution models, Earth Surf. Dynam. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2017-28, in review, 2017.
Abigail L. Langston and Gregory E. Tucker
Abigail L. Langston and Gregory E. Tucker
Abigail L. Langston and Gregory E. Tucker

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Short summary
While vertical incision in bedrock rivers is widely implemented in landscape evolution models, lateral erosion is largely ignored. This makes current models unfit to explain the formation of wide bedrock valleys, which are found around the world. In this study we present a fundamental advance in the representation of both lateral and vertical erosion of bedrock rivers in a landscape evolution model. The models show variations in valley widening in response to changes in water and sediment flux.
While vertical incision in bedrock rivers is widely implemented in landscape evolution models,...
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