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River bank erosion and lateral accretion linked to hydrograph recession and flood duration in a mountainous snowmelt-dominated system
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  • Nicholas A Sutfin,
  • Joel Rowland,
  • Mulu Fratkin,
  • Sophie Stauffer,
  • Rosemary Carroll,
  • Wendy Brown,
  • Kenneth H Williams
Nicholas A Sutfin
Case Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Joel Rowland
Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory
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Mulu Fratkin
Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory
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Sophie Stauffer
Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory
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Rosemary Carroll
Desert Research Institute, Desert Research Institute
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Wendy Brown
Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory
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Kenneth H Williams
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
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Changes in the magnitude and frequency of river flows have potential to alter sediment dynamics and morphology of rivers globally, but the direction of these changes remains uncertain. A lack of data across spatial and temporal scales limits understanding of river flow regimes and how changes in these regimes interact with river bank erosion and floodplain deposition. Linking characteristics of the flow regime to changes in bank erosion and floodplain deposition is necessary to understand how rivers will adjust to changes in hydrology from societal pressures and climatic change, particularly in snowmelt-dominated systems. We present a lidar dataset, intensive field surveys, aerial imagery and hydrologic analysis spanning 60 years, and spatial analysis to quantify bank erosion, lateral accretion, floodplain overbank deposition, and a floodplain fine sediment budget in an 11-km long study segment of the meandering gravel bed East River, Colorado, USA. Stepwise regression analysis of channel morphometry in nine study reaches and snowmelt-dominated annual hydrologic indices in this mountainous system suggest that sinuosity, channel width, recession slope, and flow duration are linked to lateral erosion and accretion. The duration of flow exceeding baseflow and the slope of the annual recession limb explain 59% and 91% of the variability in lateral accretion and erosion, respectively. This strong correlation between the rate of change in river flows, which occurs over days to weeks, and erosion suggests a high sensitivity of sedimentation along rivers in response to a shifting climate in snowmelt-dominated systems, which constitute the majority of rivers above 40° latitude.