Predicting changes in alluvial channel patterns in North-European Russia under conditions of global warming.

O. Anisimov, J. Vandenberghe, V. Lobanov, A. Kondratiev

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Global climate change may have a noticeable impact on the northern environment, leading to changes in permafrost, vegetation and fluvial morphology. In this paper we compare the results from three geomorphological models and study the potential effects of changing climatic factors on the river channel types in North-European Russia. Two of the selected models by Romashin [Romashin, V.V., 1968. Variations of the river channel types under governing factors, Annals of the Hydrological Institute, vol. 155. Hydrometeoizdat, Leningrad, pp. 56-63.] and Leopold and Wolman [Leopold, L.B., Wolman, M.G., 1957. River channel pattern: braided, meandering and straight, Physiographic and hydraulic studies of rivers. USA Geological Survey Professional Paper 252, pp. 85-98.] are conventional QS-type models, which predict the existence of either multi-thread or single-tread channel types using data on discharge and channel slope. The more advanced model by Van den Berg [Van den Berg, J.H., 1995. Prediction of alluvial channel pattern of perennial rivers. Geomorphology 12, 259-270.] takes into account the size of the sediment material. We used data from 16 runoff gauges to validate the models and predict the channel types at selected locations under modern and predicted for the future climatic conditions. Two of the three models successfully replicated the currently existing channel types in all but one of the studied sites. Predictive calculations under the hypothetical scenarios of 10%, 15%, 20% and 35% runoff increase gave different results. Van den Berg's model predicted potential transformation of the channel types, from single- to multi-thread, at 4 of 16 selected locations in the next few decades, and at 5 locations by the middle of the 21st century. Each of the QS-type models predicted such transformation at one site only. Results of the study indicate that climatic warming in combination with other environmental changes may lead to transformation of the river channel types at selected locations in north-western Russia. Further efforts are needed to improve the performance of the fluvial geomorphological models and their ability to predict such changes. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-274
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

doi 10/1016/j.geomorph.2006.12.029


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