Hydrology, Cryosphere & Earth Surface Editors' Highlights

Representing Estuaries and Braided Rivers as Channel Networks

The human eye is quite good at identifying channel networks among the rich patterns exhibited by estuaries and braided rivers, but computers have a harder time doing so. Could they do better?

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface


Because of human action on rivers, water streams have mostly been perceived as single-thread systems that carry water and sediment. Natural rivers are more complex because they exhibit not a single, well-identified channel but a network of entangled channels. Understanding their dynamics is of paramount importance to many scientific and engineering problems, for example in river restoration.

Hiatt et al. [2020] tackle this problem and propose innovative tools for studying channel networks in braided rivers and estuaries. Pattern identification is easy to the human eye but training a computer to do so is far more difficult. The authors show how the channel network can be determined from topographic and bathymetric data.

Citation: Hiatt, M., Sonke, W., Addink, E. A., van Dijk, W. M., van Kreveld, M., Ophelders, T., et al. [2020]. Geometry and topology of estuary and braided river channel networks automatically extracted from topographic data. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 125, e2019JF005206. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JF005206

—Christophe Ancey, Associate Editor, JGR: Earth Surface

Text © 2020. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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