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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 22 Jun 2018

Research article | 22 Jun 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Measuring Subaqueous Progradation of the Wax Lake Delta with a Model of Flow Direction Divergence

John B. Shaw1, Justin D. Estep1,2, Amanda R. Whaling1, Kelly M. Sanks1, and Douglas A. Edmonds3 John B. Shaw et al.
  • 1Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 72701, USA
  • 2Department of Geology and Geophysics, Texas A&M University, College Station, 77843, USA
  • 3Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, 47405, USA

Abstract. Remotely sensed flow patterns can reveal the location of the subaqueous distal tip of a distributary channel on a prograding river delta. Morphodynamic feedbacks produce distributary channel tips that become shallower over their final reaches before becoming deeper over the unchannelized foreset. The flow direction field over this morphology tends to diverge and then converge providing a diagnostic signature that can be captured in flow or remote sensing data. Twenty-one measurements from the Wax Lake Delta (WLD) in coastal Louisiana, and 317 measurements from numerically simulated deltas show that the transition from divergence to convergence occurs in a distribution that is centered just downstream of the channel tip, on average 132m in the case of the WLD. With these data we validate the Flow Direction to Channel tips (FD2C) inverse model for remotely estimating subaqueous channel tip location. We apply this model to 33 remotely sensed images of the WLD between its initiation in 1974 and 2016. We find that the distributaries grew unevenly, 6 of the primary channels grew at rates of 60–80m/yr while one grew at 116m/yr. We also estimate the growth rate of the total area enclosed by the subaqueous delta platform to be 1.83km2/yr with no obvious rate changes over time.

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John B. Shaw et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Deltas are important landforms because many people live near them, and they provide a host of important services and resources.Specific patterns of spreading and contraction are produced where delta channel flow meets the ocean. Tracers on the water surface allow this pattern to be measured from space. We identify this pattern on a growing river delta in 40 years of images, allowing us to track its growth in a new way. This method has potential to improve monitoring of deltas worldwide.
Deltas are important landforms because many people live near them, and they provide a host of...