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A Chaos Model of Meandering Rivers

STOLUM, HANS-HENRIK, Stavanger, Norway

A meandering river is a nonlinear dynamic system, and fractal geometry describes well the meander bends of such rivers.

Based on a qualitative, sedimentological model of the process of meandering, a chaos model is proposed, describing meandering as the outcome of two processes: the feedback interaction between river curvature and a high-velocity thalweg channel within the river; and the interaction between meander bends causing abandonment and straightening of the river course.

The system, when initiated from a nearly straight river course, moves toward a dynamic equilibrium in which the meander bends are fractal. This development is a case of self-organized criticality. The equilibrium represents a state of optimal energy dissipation in a situation where two counteracting processes are balancing each other.

Sedimentology may be seen as the science that describes how nonlinear dynamic processes interact to create a depositional system. As indicated by the example of meandering rivers, the use of chaos and fractal models may give sedimentology a new turn toward understanding sedimentary processes and the 3-D architecture of sediment bodies.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91004 © 1991 AAPG Annual Convention Dallas, Texas, April 7-10, 1991 (2009)