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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2019-58
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2019-58
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 25 Nov 2019

Submitted as: research article | 25 Nov 2019

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

Identifying sediment transport mechanisms from grain size-shape distributions

Johannes Albert van Hateren1, Unze van Buuren1, Sebastiaan Martinus Arens2, Ronald Theodorus van Balen1,3, and Maarten Arnoud Prins1 Johannes Albert van Hateren et al.
  • 1Faculty of Science, Department of Earth Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 1081 HV, the Netherlands
  • 2Bureau for Beach and Dune Research, Soest, the Netherlands
  • 3TNO-Geological Survey of the Netherlands, Utrecht, 3584 CB, the Netherlands

Abstract. The way in which sediment is transported (creep, saltation, suspension), is traditionally interpreted from grain size distribution characteristics. However, the grain size range associated with transitions from one transport mode to the other is highly variable because it depends on the amount of transport energy available. In this study we present a novel methodology for determination of the sediment transport mode based on grain size and shape data from dynamic image analysis. The data are integrated into grain size-shape distributions and primary components are determined using end-member modelling. In real-world datasets, primary components can be interpreted in terms of different transport mechanisms and/or sediment sources. Accuracy of the method is assessed using artificial datasets with known primary components that are mixed in known proportions. The results show that the proposed technique accurately identifies primary components with the exception of those primary components that only form minor contributions to the samples (highly mixed components).

The new method is also tested on sediment samples from an active aeolian system in the Dutch coastal dunes. Aeolian transport processes and geomorphology of these type of systems are well known and can therefore be linked to the spatial distribution of end members to assess the physical significance of the method's output. The grain size-shape distributions of the dune dataset are unmixed into three primary components. The spatial distribution of these components is constrained by geomorphology and reflects the three dominant aeolian transport processes known to occur along a beach-dune transect: bedload on the beach and in notches that were dug by man through the shore-parallel foredune ridge, modified saltation on the windward and leeward slope of the intact foredune, and suspension in the vegetated hinterland. The three transport modes are characterised by distinctly different trends in grain shape with grain size: with increasing size, bedload shows a constant grain regularity, modified saltation a minor decrease in grain regularity and suspension a strong decrease in grain regularity. These trends, or in other words, the shape of the grain size-shape distributions, can be used to determine the transport mode responsible for a sediment deposit. Results of the method are therefore less ambiguous than those of traditional grain-size distribution end-member modelling, especially if multiple transport modes occur or if primary components overlap in terms of grain size but differ in grain shape.

Johannes Albert van Hateren et al.
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Johannes Albert van Hateren et al.
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Short summary
In this paper, we introduce a new technique that can be used to identify how sediments were transported to their place of deposition (termed the transport mode). The traditional technique is based on the size of sediment grains, ours on the size and the shape. The new method indicates the transport mode with less ambiguity, and therefore improves our ability to extract information such as climate from the past, from sediment deposits.
In this paper, we introduce a new technique that can be used to identify how sediments were...
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