Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Downstream and upstream influence in river meandering. Part 2. Planimetric development

G. ZOLEZZI a1p1 and G. SEMINARA a1
a1 Dipartimento di Ingegneria Ambientale, Università di Genova, Via Montallegro 1, 16122, Genoa, Italy


Perturbations of channel geometry (like variations of channel curvature or channel width) in meandering rivers give rise to morphodynamic effects which display themselves through the development of large-scale perturbations of bottom topography in the form of stationary bars developing in the longitudinal direction. The latter may then drive the lateral migration of the channel by enhancing bank erosion at bar pools: through this mechanism local perturbations of channel geometry may affect the planimetric development of meandering rivers on large timescales. The problem tackled herein is whether such morphodynamic influence is invariably felt downstream as the commonly employed model of river meandering would suggest.

In order to solve this problem, we derive the exact solution of the linearized form of the mathematical problem of river morphodynamics. Linear analysis had pointed out the existence of a resonance phenomenon: in a linear (hence ideal) context, resonance occurs when the meander wavenumber and the width ratio of the channel take values (λR and βR, respectively) such as to force free spatial modes of the system consisting of free bars which neither grow nor decay either in time or in space. Channels characterized by values of the width ratio β larger (smaller) than βR are called super- (sub-)resonant. The present solution, which applies to channels with constant width and arbitrary curvature distribution, shows that two distinct scenarios may occur: downstream influence is associated with sub-resonant channels and vice versa dominant upstream influence occurs in super-resonant channels. Small-amplitude waves of bottom topography are shown to migrate downstream in the former case and may migrate upstream in the latter, as resonance also defines the threshold conditions below (above) which small-amplitude alternate bar perturbations (may) migrate downstream (upstream).

These results have several implications. In the present paper we examine the overdeepening phenomenon whereby abrupt variations of channel curvature, as in sequences of straight and constant curvature reaches, lead to sequences of stationary alternate bars with amplitude decaying in the longitudinal direction. We show that, along with downstream overdeepening, an upstream overdeepening scenario is predicted in the super-resonant regime.

Implications of the upstream influence on planimetric development of meandering rivers are investigated in Part 2.

(Received July 20 1999)
(Revised December 10 2000)

p1 Present address: Dipartimento di Ingegneria Civile e Ambientale, Università di Trento, Via Mesiano 77, 38050, Trento, Italy.