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Geomorphological explanation of the long profile of the Lower Mississippi River

Geomorphological explanation of the long profile of the Lower Mississippi River,10.1016/j.geomorph.2006.01.045,Geomorphology,Oliver P. Harmar,Nicholas

Geomorphological explanation of the long profile of the Lower Mississippi River   (Citations: 8)
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Concavity in the long profile of rivers has traditionally been explained through the concept of grade, in which the slope declines downstream as a response to changing discharge, bed material size and sediment transport. Applying this concept to particular river systems has, however, proved problematic. The long profile reflects spatially-distributed form–process feedbacks between all aspects of channel morphology operating at a range of poorly defined time- and space-scales, and in the presence of natural controls. In many river systems, process–form dynamics are further complicated by engineering interventions which add additional extrinsic controls and constrain the range of intrinsic dynamics. In this paper, the 1974–75 long profile of the Lower Mississippi River is examined at three scales: the regional; the reach; and the sub-reach (pool–crossing) scales. A combination of curve-fitting, zonation algorithms, and empirical classification techniques are used to show that, although the long profile of the Lower Mississippi River is concave at the largest scale, the profile is characterised by discontinuities, shorter trends and zonal variations in the amplitude and wavelength of pool–crossing morphology. These characteristics are a response to morphological and bed material changes relating to a range of physical (geological, tectonic, tributary input) and engineering controls. Despite its apparent simplicity and correspondence to a ‘graded’ condition, the long profile of the Lower Mississippi River is actually a complex and scale-dependent morphological property. At best, the concave river profile is, therefore, a property which emerges from several scales of process–form interaction; at worst, it is no more than an artefact arising from the application of over-simplified curve-fitting techniques. Disclosure of the nature of the long profile thus requires the application of a variety of analytical techniques, as well as geomorphological explanations which are themselves scale-dependent and which consider the interaction of natural processes and the history of engineering intervention.
Journal: Geomorphology , vol. 84, no. 3, pp. 222-240, 2007
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    • ...In practice the concavity of a profile depends on the scale of the observations, being affected by local geological and morphological characteristics, but at the regional scale this postulate has been shown to hold true for many terrestrial systems even when these display different characteristics at reach and sub-reach scale (Harmar & Clifford 2007; Phillips & Lutz 2008)...

    G. Caprarelliet al. Wet Mars implications of revised scaling calculations for Evros Vallis

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