Scaling in river corridor widths depicts organization in valley morphology

Chandana Gangodagamage, Elizabeth Barnes, Efi Foufoula

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Landscapes have been shown to exhibit numerous scaling laws from Horton's laws to more sophisticated scaling in topography heights, river network topology and power laws in several geomorphic attributes. In this paper, we propose a different way of examining landscape organization by introducing the "river corridor width" (lateral distance from the centerline of the river to the left and right valley walls at a fixed height above the water surface) as one moves downstream. We establish that the river corridor width series, extracted from 1 m LIDAR topography of a mountainous river, exhibit a rich multiscale statistical structure (anomalous scaling) which varies distinctly across physical boundaries, e.g., bedrock versus alluvial valleys. We postulate that such an analysis, in conjunction with field observations and physical modeling, has the potential to quantitatively relate mechanistic laws of valley formation to the statistical signature that underlying processes leave on the landscape. Such relations can be useful in guiding field work (by identifying physically distinct regimes from statistically distinct regimes) and advancing process understanding and hypothesis testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-215
Number of pages18
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dino Bellugi and Collin Bode for providing us with the data, and Stéphane Roux (Laboratoire de Physique, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Lyon, France) for help in implementing the WTMM methodology. Discussions throughout the course of this work with William Dietrich and Bruno Lashermes are greatly appreciated. This work has been partially supported by the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED), a Science and Technology Center funded by NSF's Office of Integrative Activities under agreement EAR-0120914. Computer resources were provided by the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute, Digital Technology Center, at the University of Minnesota. The constructive comments of Jon Pelletier and Brad Murray are gratefully acknowledged.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Hillslope processes
  • Landscape organization
  • Multifractals
  • Multiscaling
  • River corridor widths
  • Valley morphology


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