A new method for in-situ measurement of the erosion threshold of river channels

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Kieran Dunne, Paulo Arratia, Douglas J Jerolmack 


The vast majority of alluvial deposits have some degree of cohesion, typically due to the presence of clays and/or organic matter. Determining the threshold fluid shear stress necessary to entrain these sediments is essential for predicting erosion rates and morphodynamics of rivers, tidal channels, and coasts. Cohesive sediments present a greater challenge than non-cohesive sand and gravel beds due to the sensitivity of the threshold fluid shear stress to such factors as compaction, aggregation and particle surface chemistry. All of those factors may be altered if bed and bank sediments are extracted for later analysis in the laboratory. Environments with mixed cohesive and non-cohesive materials are common, such as sand-bedded rivers with muddy banks; it is therefore desirable to have a method for in-situ measurement of the threshold fluid shear stress across a very wide range. We present a novel instrument, provisionally called the "Mudbuster", that is capable of reproducibly determining the threshold fluid shear stress for submerged cohesive and non-cohesive sediments in-situ. The Mudbuster has several advantages over alternative methods, including ease of implementation in the field, and a fluid shear that is more representative of natural flows. The device incorporates common and low-cost components integrated with an Arduino micro-controller, which may receive commands from a mobile phone. We demonstrate our instruments capabilities in gravel, sand, and clay-sand mixtures prepared in the laboratory, and present a proof-of-concept field deployment in a wadeable stream. Additionally, we provide the necessary schematics, parts lists, code, and calibration procedures for the interested reader to build their own Mudbuster.




Earth Sciences, Geomorphology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


erodibility, Cohesion, Mud, River Channel, Threshold of Motion


Published: 2019-06-05 22:23

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GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) 2.1

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