Hyperconcentrated floods cause extreme gravel transport through the sandy rivers of the Gangetic Plains

Laura Quick, Hugh Sinclair, Maggie Creed, Mikael Attal, Alistair Borthwick, Rajiv Sinha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The Gangetic Plains comprise steep gravelly river channels that transition to low gradient sandy channels 10-40 km downstream of the mountain front. This “gravel-sand transition" is characterized by an abrupt greater-than-one-order-of-magnitude drop in both gradient and sediment grain size, suggesting a degree of long-term stability. However, the stratigraphic record of the gravel-sand transition in the Miocene Siwalik Group demonstrates intermittent transport of coarse gravels tens of kilometres downstream of the transition; such events in contemporary channels would drive channel avulsion(s) and increase flood risk, devastating communities across the plains. We combine sedimentological analysis of Siwalik deposits with entrainment calculations which demonstrate that hyperconcentration is required to transport coarse bedload over low-gradient plains. Transport conditions are attainable when intense monsoon precipitation (a 200- to 1000-year event) is combined with increased suspended sediment concentrations in channels. Predicted climate change and ongoing seismicity increase the likelihood of such extreme events within this century.
Original languageEnglish
Article number297
JournalCommunications Earth & Environment
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2023


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