Modeling the Evolution of Rill Networks, Debris Fans, and Cinder Cones: Connections between Sediment Transport Processes and Landscape Development
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractLandscapes evolve through a number of processes in response to a wide range of forcing mechanisms. Many of the processes that drive landscape evolution occur at the interface between fluid and sediment. Sediment transport leads to changes in topography that, in turn, influence fluid flow. Feedback mechanisms between topography and fluid flow can lead to the formation of patterns, such as sand ripples, dune fields, parallel channel networks, and periodically spaced valleys. In many cases, the development and evolution of patterns within landscapes are heavily influenced by environmental conditions. Therefore, given relationships between landform features and the underlying processes, present-day landscapes have the potential to be used to infer a record of climatic conditions over the course of their development. An inability to make direct observations over geologically relevant timescales makes it difficult to study the processes that influence landscape evolution. Mathematical models provide a means of quantitatively linking natural patterns and landscape features with physical processes. Patterns in landscapes also provide a simple means of testing quantitative representations of geomorphic processes. In this work, we develop landscape evolution models to study the development of debris-flow-dominated hillslopes, rill networks, and cinder cones. Through a combination of theoretical modeling, analysis of experimental data, and remote sensing data, we attempt to better understand each of these three systems. While each system is interesting in isolation, these and similar studies add to our knowledge of the mathematical representations of processes that are used more generally within the study of landscape evolution.
Degree ProgramGraduate College