Hydrodynamic and suspended sediment transport controls on river mouth morphology

F. Falcini, A. Piliouras, R. Garra, A. Guerin, D. J. Jerolmack, J. Rowland, C. Paola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


River mouths building into standing bodies of water have strikingly varied growth habits. This presents a compelling pattern formation problem that is also of great practical relevance for subsurface prediction and managing coastal wetlands. Here we present a generalized 2.5-dimensional potential vorticity (PV) theory that explains sedimentation patterns of a sediment-laden stationary jet by coupling an understanding of vorticity with suspended sediment concentration fields. We explore the physical meaning of this new sediment-PV definition, and its impact on outflow depositional patterns, by analyzing data from a shallow wall-bounded plane jet experiment and by discussing new theoretical insights. A key result is that lateral advection and diffusion of suspended sediment are directly proportional to jet vorticity, a feature that reveals the mechanistic process that forms elongated channels by focused levee deposition. The new PV theory constitutes a more generalized mathematical framework that expands the Rouse theory for the equilibrium of suspended sediment. Key Points Lateral advection/diffusion of suspended sediment are proportional to vorticity Our mathematical framework generalizes the Rouse theory for suspended sediment We probe processes that lead to the formation of various channel patterns

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • potential vorticity
  • river mouth
  • suspended sediment


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