Fluvio-deltaic sedimentation: A generalized Stefan problem

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We present a model of sedimentation in a subsiding fluvio-deltaic basin with steady sediment supply and unsteady base level. We demonstrate that mass transfer in a fluvio-deltaic basin is analogous to heat transfer in a generalized Stefan problem, where the basin's shoreline represents the phase front. We obtain a numerical solution to the governing equations for sediment transport and deposition in this system via an extension of a deforming-grid technique from the phase-change literature. Through modification of the heat-balance integral method, we also develop a semi-analytical solution, which agrees well with the numerical solution. We construct a space of dimensionless groups for the basin and perform a systematic exploration of this space to illustrate the influence of each group on the shoreline trajectory. Our model results suggest that all subsiding fluvio-deltaic basins exhibit a standard autoretreat shoreline trajectory in which a brief period of shoreline advance is followed by an extended period of shoreline retreat. Base-level cycling produces a shoreline response that varies relative to the autoretreat signal. Contrary to previous studies, we fail to observe either a strong phase shift between shoreline and base level or a pronounced attenuation of the amplitude of shoreline response as the frequency of base-level cycling decreases. However, the amplitude of shoreline response to base-level cycling is a function of the basin's age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-452
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Mathematics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000


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