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Improving Paleohydrologic Source-to-Sink Estimates by Merging Big Data and the Fulcrum Approach


Quantifying source-to-sink sediment flux for stratigraphic systems is critical for accurate basin models, but all available methods are hampered by low precision and most require data not readily attained by common subsurface studies. The Fulcrum approach uses the variables of channel bankfull thickness and grain size to calculate sediment bankfull discharge and converts this to an annual sediment volume. The fulcrum approach uses commonly collected data but similarly yields only approximate flux estimates. In order to calculate a more precise source-to-sink estimate for long basin durations, the amount of time the fluvial systems runs at bankfull flow and the annual proportion of sediment discharged during this bankfull flow must also be determined. By categorizing fluvial systems by attributes such as drainage area and paleoclimate at the time of discharge, a more specified and accurate bankfull flow duration and total bankfull sediment discharge is estimated. We constructed a database that stores and categorizes these data. Daily stream gauge data spanning decades is used in conjunction with measured bankfull values from literature to populate the datasets for the database and derive stream specific data attributes. This bankfull flux searchable database evaluates stream gauge data for modern fluvial systems according to classes such as climate setting and is also a useful tool for identifying analog stream data scaled to drainage basin and channel size. It evaluates designated parameters of days within a year that the river runs at bankfull flow, as well as the yearly proportion of sediment discharged over bankfull duration. The database can thus yield a more accurate value for duration at bankfull flow and sediment discharge at bankfull from modern rivers that can be used as an analog for stratigraphic rivers with interpreted climate and size parameters. Preliminary results show a key breakdown in bankfull duration, with arid and temperate dry season rivers on the order of a fraction of day per year and wet temperate climates tending to be an order of magnitude longer and boreal climates still longer. Categorizing stratigraphic rivers by known climate and other parameters, can lower the total error in sediment flux from paleohydrology by a factor.