Hyperpycnal river flows from an active mountain belt

Dadson, Simon; Hovius, Niels; Pegg, Stuart; Dade, W. Brian; Horng, M. J.; Chen, H.. 2005 Hyperpycnal river flows from an active mountain belt. Journal of Geophysical Research, 110 (F4).

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Rivers draining the tectonically active island of Taiwan commonly discharge suspended sediment to the ocean at hyperpycnal concentrations (>40 kg m−3), typically during typhoon-driven floods. During the period 1970–1999, between 99 and 115 Mt yr−1 of sediment was discharged at hyperpycnal sediment concentrations from Taiwan to the sea. This amount represents 30–42% of the total sediment discharge from Taiwan to the ocean. The spatial distribution of hyperpycnal discharge broadly mirrors the pattern of total sediment discharge, and rivers draining catchments having recent earthquakes and weak rocks, such as the Choshui and Erhjen, discharge up to 50–70% of their sediment at hyperpycnal concentrations. Following the Chi-Chi earthquake, the frequency of hyperpycnal flows increased, because of an earthquake-driven increase in sediment supply. Landslides triggered by the Chi-Chi earthquake have resulted in an increase in the concentration of suspended sediment in rivers for a given water discharge. In turn, the threshold flood discharge required to generate hyperpycnal flow has decreased, and so hyperpycnal flows are occurring more frequently. Our findings suggest that if hyperpycnal plumes evolve into bottom-hugging gravity currents descending to and ultimately debouching in the deep sea, earthquakes may be recorded as bundles of turbidites.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Water > WA01 Water extremes > WA01.3 Quantification of uncertainties, trends and risk of extremes
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Harding (to July 2011)
ISSN: 0148-0227
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Date made live: 21 Apr 2011 11:07 +0 (UTC)

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