Quantification of variability in bedform geometry

C.F. van der Mark, A. Blom, S.J.M.H. Hulscher

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We analyze the variability in bedform geometry in laboratory and field studies. Even under controlled steady flow conditions in laboratory flumes, bedforms are irregular in size, shape, and spacing, also in case of well-sorted sediment. Our purpose is to quantify the variability in bedform geometry. We use a bedform tracking tool to determine the geometric variables of the bedforms from measured bed elevation profiles. For each flume and field data set, we analyze variability in (1) bedform height, (2) bedform length, (3) crest elevation, (4) trough elevation, and (5) slope of the bedform lee face. Each of these stochastic variables is best described by a positively skewed probability density function such as the Weibull distribution. We find that, except for the lee face slope, the standard deviation of the geometric variable scales with its mean value as long as the ratio of width to hydraulic radius is sufficiently large. If the ratio of width to hydraulic radius is smaller than about ten, variability in bedform geometry is reduced. An exponential function is then proposed for the coefficients of variation of the five variables to get an estimate of variability in bedform geometry. We show that mean lee face slopes in flumes are significantly steeper than those in the field. The 95% and 98% values of the geometric variables appear to scale with their standard deviation. The above described simple relationships enable us to integrate variability in bedform geometry into engineering studies and models in a convenient way.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberF000940
JournalJournal of geophysical research: Earth surface
Issue numberF3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • METIS-243300
  • IR-60079


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